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State leaders disagree on who should spearhead Maui County's axis deer problems

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State leaders disagree about who should take the lead on managing Maui County's axis deer overpopulation.

Drought conditions a year ago forced large numbers of deer into agricultural and populated areas seeking food and water. On Molokaʻi, many deer died, their carcasses creating a public health issue.

State Sen. Lynn DeCoite says that while she believes in a multi-pronged approach that includes government and community, the Department of Land and Natural Resources should be leading the effort.

But she says the issue is not a priority for DLNR because it claims it's not an environmental issue.

"I said this is an environmental issue because deer are dying. Deer is causing erosion. That erosion during the winter months runs off and suffocates our reefs," she said.

The deer devour everything in sight and the loss of vegetation leads to erosion and runoff into the ocean.

"Even while we had told them this is the second emergency proclamation, that we re-opt on behalf of the governor, so whose priority should this be? Because this should remain under forestry and wildlife with the outreach of other landowners, outreach towards hunters that can or could be contracted out so that we bring this situation under control," DeCoite told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

DeCoite says the federal government is also involved, now that deer have jumped over the fence and onto the runways at Kahului Airport.

Earlier this month, Gov. David Ige extended the emergency proclamation for Maui's axis deer overpopulation problem for a second time.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Jan. 20, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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