You might think managers of the reserves in Hawai`i’s Natural Area Reserves System would have unfettered authorization to kill feral ungulates in the reserves’ forests, which are supposed to be the state’s best. You would be wrong.
“Kaua`i’s seasons are ridiculous,” said Patrick Conant at a meeting last November.
“I don’t know how you can tell if you’re legal,” Marie Bruegmann added.
Conant and Bruegmann, both NARS commissioners, were referring to the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s rather puzzling hunting rules for the island, which have reportedly hampered efforts of NARS staff from controlling wild deer in the 1,600-acre Ku`ia NAR on Kaua`i’s North Shore.
Many NARs fall within DOFAW’s game mammal hunting areas. And, like everyone else, NARS managers are subject to the division’s hunting rules, which dictate what kinds of animals can be taken, what methods are permitted, whether permits are required, and how many animals can be taken and when. That means if the rules restrict hunting to weekends, NARS staff can’t hunt during the work week.
Kaua`i’s rules are by far the most complicated. The Hono O Na Pali NAR falls within hunting unit G, which has no bag limits and hunting — with bows and arrows only — can occur year-round. The Ku`ia NAR, on the other hand, falls into unit H, where hunting is allowed only on certain weekends and where hunters may take only one pig a day, one goat per rifle/muzzleloader permit, and/or one antlered black-tailed deer buck per hunter per license year. The hunting weekends vary depending on the hunting method used.
In Moloka`i’s Pu`u Ali`i and Oloku`i NARs and Maui’s Hanawi and West Maui (Kahakuloa section) NARs, hunters are limited to two goats and two pigs per day. Hunting is allowed on weekends and state holidays (except bird hunting days) year-round.
In all of the NARs on the island of Hawai`i, a hunter may take two pigs, one goat and one sheep a day, every day, year-round.
O`ahu is more restrictive, with public hunting allowed in the Pahole and Ka`ala NARs only on special hunts with DOFAW staff.
Two years ago, DOFAW proposed revisions to its game mammal hunting rules that would have helped NARS managers better protect forests from feral ungulates. Among other things, the new rules would have removed the O`ahu, Maui, and Moloka`i reserves from public hunting areas. They would also have lifted the bag limits in the Hawai`i Island reserves.
Kaua`i’s hunting rules would have been streamlined a bit and the take levels would have increased from one ungulate per day per permit to two. Hunting in Ku`ia NAR still would have been restricted to weekends.
But the division never adopted the proposed revisions, and today, NARS staff must apply for an exemption from the hunting rules if they want to control ungulates in the off-season.
Although NARS staff can get exemptions to hunt out of season, “we try not to if we’re using hunting as a main tool,” says NARS program manager Randy Kennedy, adding that the division tries to let hunters take the animals first. On Hawai`i, for example, the NARs are so vast that staff wants hunters to help control ungulates, according to Lisa Hadway, head of the island’s NARS program.
When or whether the game mammal hunting rules will be revised remains to be seen. Environment Hawai`i was not able to reach DOFAW administrator Roger Imoto.
Whether or not the hunting rules change anytime soon, eradicating feral ungulates from protected areas may soon get a lot easier for natural resource managers.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources has included in its watershed protection initiative budget a request for $20,000 to purchase an infared rifle scope. The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i has already begun are experimenting with the technology, produced by FLIR Systems, Inc.
“It’s a game-changer,” Trae Menard told the NARS Commission last November. Menard is a commissioner as well as TNCH’s Kaua`i preserves manager.
At a recent state Senate hearing on invasive species control, Menard showed video taken by the scope, which clearly showed a pig running through the forest understory.
Even where aerial shooting is banned, Menard said the scopes are good for conducting censuses before and after ground hunts. Aerial hunting is allowed on Maui.
— Teresa Dawson
Volume 23, Number 8 February 2013