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Severe drought conditions leading to animal starvation on Moloka’i

by Thunda

(Kaunakakai, Moloka‘i) – Surveys and investigations by the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) staff suggest that recent instances of deer dying on Moloka‘i are due to severe drought conditions. DOFAW began receiving reports earlier this month of deer being found both on roadways and on private lands in West Moloka‘i.  

Staff have conducted surveys and investigations to determine the causes of death.  At this time, the animals appear to be dying of starvation due to the extreme drought that the island experienced over the summer. On Dec. 28, a visit by a veterinarian from the Hawai‘i Dept. of  Agriculture (DOA), Division of Animal Industry, confirmed DOFAW staff observations. 

Scott Fretz, the DOFAW Maui Branch Manager said, “Deer are not native to Hawai‘i and they lack natural predators that normally keep populations in check in their native habitats. Deer populations can rapidly increase to very high numbers that impact native habitats, agricultural, and other areas.”  On Moloka‘i, deer are designated as a game mammal and DLNR does not restrict the number of deer that can be harvested as long as applicable state laws are followed, including possession of a current Hawai’i hunting license, and private landowner permission is granted. Deer on Maui and Moloka‘i can be hunted daily, year-round, with no bag limits.   

DOFAW Administrator David Smith commented, “This situation reminds us of the vital importance of controlling invasive species. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy of invasive, non-nartive deer over-populating, degrading our forested watersheds and now starving as a result.”  

State Representative Lynn DeCoite stated, “My office has been working on this situation for several months. We continue to collaborate with DLNR, DOA, the Hawai‘i Dept. of Health, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Maui County Mayor’s  

Office, county public works and landowners. We are addressing the health, safety and well-being of the community. We ask for everyone’s patience while we are doing our best to clean up the carcasses and develop plans to try and manage the overpopulation of axis deer on Moloka‘i.” 

As resources permit, landowners and agencies are partnering to remove carcasses that pose a nuisance or hazard.  DOFAW staff are assisting and have provided heavy equipment to support excavation and burial of animals.  

On private lands, the landowner is responsible of removal; for animals on state highways, the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation; Maui County Department of Public Works for carcasses on county road easements; or the Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation if the dead animals are in a county park. DOFAW will respond in the case of live or injured deer in need of wildlife control. Contact information for responsible people or agencies are listed below. 

Residents who want to report deer carcasses may call:

  • Moloka’i Ranch, (808) 552-2444
  • State highways, (808) 873-3535
  • County road easements, (808) 553-3222
  • DLNR lands, (808) 984-8100

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