As 2021 comes to an end, it is just the beginning for the Maui Axis Deer Task Force. Since its start in September 2021, my office, in partnership with Mayor Michael Victorino, has formed a core group of Federal, State, County of Maui, and community partners that make up the Task Force. We continue to discuss short and long term mitigation efforts for the axis deer population. With every problem, we began with research and understanding. Our first task is gathering an accurate estimate of the current deer population on Maui and what a manageable target number is. We are also learning more about the behavior and patterns of axis deer, we realize that without the collaboration from our state legislators and officials, environmentalists, farmers, ranchers, hunters and of course, the affected communities, we will not be able to make progress for the future.
On November 9, 2021, Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation for Maui County due to the drought conditions and overpopulation of axis deer. The proclamation will expire on January 7, 2022, however I would support a 60-day extension to continue to work on efforts to manage, control and provide related relief to our county. Here are some updates related to axis deer:
Survey Mapping of Axis Deer:
There’s an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 axis deer on Maui, with the majority Upcountry, and without “active management” efforts, that number could likely grow to over 210,000 in the next 10 to 15 years, said Jake Muise in a Maui News, September 2021. https://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2021/09/managing-deer-sustainable-food-is-mission-of-business/
The Task Force is looking forward to the population survey of Ulupalakua to Paia from a feral animal grant award to Muise from the Department of Housing and Human Concerns. The survey is projected to be complete in early January 2022 and will provide key information to guide recommendations on manageable deer numbers. Data collected will then be analyzed by Dr. Steven Hess, Ph.D, Supervisory Research Biologist for USDA-APHIS-WS.
Axis Deer Vehicle Accidents:
Looking at data from Maui Police Department, there has been a gradual increase of motor vehicle incidents involving axis deer since 2018. As of Friday, December 17, 2021, there were 173 total reported incidents in 2021. This is over a 200% increase from last. year. This compares to year totals of 66 in 2018, 92 in 2019, and 83 in 2020. Reporting incidents, no matter how minor, are an important tool for data collection and tracking purposes.
Environment and Ecology Subcommittee:
The Task Force also suggested a proposal to reuse R-1 water from the South Maui Waste Water Reclamation facility to bring back foliage in large areas of open land that have been ravaged by the ongoing Upcountry drought. This could also help bring back foliage and native plants we have lost due to drought and deer grazing. It would be a big benefit to ranchers and farmers who have been decimated by deer damage and drought. This would help prevent massive runoff during large rain events such as we saw with the large amounts of sediment washing makai during the recent Kona Low storm.
Composting Regenerative Ag:
The Task Force also suggested to establishing a pilot project to create a composting facility for deer renderings and green waste. Composting is a climate action crusade.
Economy and Economic Development:
Other mitigation ideas have the potential for multiple benefits. As we look at reducing the herds to a manageable population, an idea that has continuously come up is creating a food donation program, dog food or sale of other products from the deer meat.
Kula Ag Park
Big mahalo to our State Legislators, for appropriating $2.8 million and Governor Ige for releasing the funding from fiscal year 2022 budget for plans, design, construction and equipment for watershed protection and ungulate fencing for the Kula Agriculture Park and other critical watersheds, Maui County. The Department of Land and Natural Resources are working with Mayor Mike Victorino and the Office of Economic Development to coordinate these improvements which will provide relief to the farmers from the devastation of the axis deer. (Photo Submitted from a night harvest by the Kula Hunting Club)
Lana‘i City, Axis Deer Community Meeting:
January 10, 2022 at 5;30 to 6:30 pm online, Pulama Lanai is addressing the growing problem of axis deer in Lana‘i City. Over two days, 93 expired deer were found in Lanai city during the recent Kona low storm said an email from Pulama Lanai.
In a few short months, I feel there has been progress made regarding the Axis Deer situation on Maui. My plan is to continue this Task Force to assist with managing the overpopulation of the axis deer. With the legislative session and County’s budget review process both on the horizon, all stakeholders will be looking at tangible solutions to implement in the short and long term. We need to do this with support from all levels of government, and we will continue to work with our community partners to implement these solutions.
Deer Incident Notification, Who to Contact:
With community safety a top priority, we want to share contact information put together by Senator Lynn DeCoite, on what to do if you see deer in different situations:
Remembering to use these phone numbers if you see dead deer will help our entire community.