BY SYDNEY ROSS SINGER – We speak about sustainability in Hawaii and the need to be food self-sufficient.

What do you do when your food has become feral and threatens sensitive environmental areas? At what point does a food species become an invasive species?

I recently received a video of three hungry and thirsty lambs on the barren lava fields of Mauna Kea, kept from food and water by newly erected fencing. The video came from a man named Tony Sylvester, an electronics technician who works at one of the observatories on Mauna Kea. He is also an avid hunter who wants to save the sheep targeted for eradication.

Tony is part of the “local” culture, born and raised on the Big Island, a well seasoned hunter who hunts with his adult sons. For Tony and many others like him, supporting one’s family with food from the wild is an important cultural practice. It is not only about food, which is important enough. It is also about traditions, father-son outings, connecting with nature, eating from the bounty of the land.

When you hear Tony speak about the starving sheep on Mauna Kea, his compassion and concern make him sound more like a humane officer than a hunter. Good gardeners tend and protect the trees and vegetables that feed them. Good hunters do the same with the wild game that have fed their families for generations.

Local hunters are in conflict with environmental managers who are cutting up Big Island wilderness with fences. Fences around critical habitat are meant to protect vegetation from sheep, goats, and other potentially destructive wildlife. Animals trapped inside the fences are shot and killed. Those trapped outside the fences are likely to starve. Recently, hundreds of sheep died of thirst because of a newly erected fence.

It is important for environmental managers to understand that people “connect” with their food. If you take away their food, you threatened the people. And these hunters feel angry and threatened.

The State Department of Land and Natural Resources has a mandate to stock the wild with game for food and to promote hunting. That mandate came at a time, decades ago, when legislators realized that we are an island state and need to maintain our own natural food resources. Now, however, these game animals, and many of the fruit trees which they eat such as strawberry guava, are considered “invasive”, and legislators are seeming more concerned with killing introduced species than in protecting our food resources and the local way of life that uses those resources.

I asked Tony to explain the problem with the sheep, since he has studied the situation. Here is what he said. His video of the lambs and the harsh terrain on which they are trapped is below.

Tony: “The problem is that they (environmental managers) have taken control of all our upland game areas. With the closing of PTA (Puhakaloa Training Area) there are just two places left to hunt for sheep. One is Kipuka Ainahou, which is on the Mauna Loa side of the saddle road between the 22 and 27 mile marker and that is archery only. The other is Kaohe Game Management Area and both rifle and archery are used there.

“They have eradicated all other places to the point that only a few sheep are present if any. Kipuka Ainahou is open from April to October only and Kaohe GMA is very thick with Mamane and is closed during drought and bird hunting season which is from November to January.

“Currently Kipuka Ainahou is very depleted of good game from all the hunting pressure. Fewer places to hunt so everyone is pounding Kipuka. The area holds a good amount of sheep but its not a very large land area. Ram numbers are way down. Ewes are holding but more hunters are starting to take them, too. Kaohe GMA has sheep but they are mostly present because helicopters can’t shoot them due to the thick mamane forest. The sheep numbers run about 100 in Kaohe GMA. Eradications were carried out four times last year.

“All this eradication and fencing is to obtain total control of the wild sheep and eventually they will all be removed. The sheep have adapted well and have been a nemesis to the invasive species clan for years. They know that cutting off the migratory routes of the sheep will stop them. They have no sanctuary to hide.

“In the past the wild sheep could cross into DLNR land, PTA Federal land and DHHL Hawaiian lands, all having their own jurisdiction so no one control. The sheep could simply run and hide across boundaries. Not anymore.

“Most of the mountain is conservation and critical habitat for Palila so they have removed all but a few die hard mammals in those areas.

“There is just not enough land set aside for the sheep. They are relentlessly pressured and now they have nowhere to go.

“If some of the former or unsuitable ranch lands were fenced properly then the wild sheep could be relocated there. These lands have mostly grass as cattle ranching activities removed the trees. The sheep would do well and they could open seasonal to allow hunting and closed seasons for hiking and other activities. This would benefit the critical habitats, hunters and the sheep.

“They could also relocate some to Kipuka Ainahou prior to hunting season to allow them to be taken for food.

“The bottom line is that we as hunters and locals want to see some sheep left in the wild as they are a part of our history and culture. Nowhere else in the world do we see such diversity and we the Hawaiians, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Puerto Ricans, Caucasians all share this in common. To be local is not a single race but its the combining of all these races and our history and culture is interwoven. We are a race of people and we have formed our own culture.”

As you can see from Tony’s comments, eradicating sheep is like eradicating the local culture. As wildlife managers drive Big Island sheep to extinction, they do the same to local culture.

Ironically, the hunters are the predators that are needed for sheep and other ungulate management in the wild. Eliminating the hunter and the hunted will leave our islands dependent on the Mainland for food. We may have forests with native plants and a few remaining native birds, but we will starve if our umbilicus to the mainland is cut and shipments of food are stopped. However, before we starve there will be social unrest as angry locals confront the government for destroying our precious natural food resources.

So saving the sheep may really mean saving ourselves.

To see the video of the lambs, go here:
https://www.transferbigfiles.com/35ee2a99-9ea7-454a-97e0-c7194a77829e?rid=Rm4icp%2fDwAe16lNSU6r23Q%3d%3d

Comments

comments

11 COMMENTS

  1. There is a great polarization between hunters and those who are pro-eradication. This was rooted decades ago, and is slowly balancing out.

    First of all, there are pigs, goat and sheep all over the island in great numbers so it’s not like we are at all limited with game to eat. Problem is many of it is on private lands with limited access and sheep is definitely being persecuted above others because of location. Mauna kea was just a very popular public land hunting opportunity for sheep and true, hunting pressure combined with drought would resulting in sheep numbers going downhill at Kipuka Ainahou today. The state can simply be more proactive reduce the bag limit and limit harvests to rams. I am not yet familiar with why it takes so long for them to do so, but then, it’s easy to criticize. To understand takes more effort.

    Had the sheep been managed sustainably in the past in balance with their habitat, this could of all been avoided. Instead, the “ideology of the trophy” resulted in a demand from recreational hunters for high number of sheep- higher than the ecosystem could handle in a forest already degraded prior by cattle. DOFAW provided it, knowing full well that the mamane forest was dying off. Deforestation and increase in lesser palateable alian vegetation resulted. Then came the whole Palila bird fiasco… Sierra club was acting too fast, too extreme. DOFAW was dragging their heals on any action. They settled for decades of aerial culling, enough to allow a percentage of mamane to survive sheep browsing without actually eradicating sheep outright. Those mamane saplings are now starting to produce seed.

    Drought has been the major bane to sheep and vegetation in recent years, causing much damage to the vegetation and probably palila numbers. Everything up there is water-limited. Just go see for yourself! Dead ground cover was common just a few months ago, following the drought. Few mamane seedlings survive in the open. The compacted soil, scorched by the sun, dried by the wind, and with no nutrient cycling is a harsh place to be a seedling. Rather, now matured saplings that grew up after culling decades ago are under the shade of their parent tree. …of course, the grass is always greener under the mamane tree!

    Recently, a pasture weed called fireweed has spread across the big island and has- during the drought- recolonized much of the bare ground of Mauna kea. Although this may seem like a bad thing, the ground cover it forms will help with the water holding capacity of the landscape and will probably diversify over dime with other plant species, both native and non-native, and help the forest recover. This occurs over many years so be patient.

    In the future, opinion will inevitably change in favor of a balanced game management approach. As the forest recovers and palateable native plants rediversify the landscape, the landscape will become more resistant to the effects of grazing. Then society will ask the question: do we spend hundreds of thousands to replace the aging fence and controlling animal break-ins, or do we spend a fraction of the money into trail and hut infrastructure and allow public hunters to manage the sheep populations at relatively lower numbers in a now more resilient forest? This is probably 20 years down the line. If you read the updated Palila Management plan, you’ll see that most of the landscape (naio/Mamane forest) is not great palila habitat anyway (more rats and less Mamane food), so hunting pressure can therefore be directed towards those places where most critical to palila recovery, perhaps simply by placing a camping hut there. And if the droughts keep up, there might not be Palila anyway.

    So as a environmentally conscious hunter educated in managing native forest ecosystems, I view this whole “eradication” for what it truly is: HABITAT IMPROVEMENT following abusive land management practices. The same thing is happening on Kauai along the beloved Kalalau Trail but disguised as for Watershed Protection Purposes.

    The drought explains the thirsty sheep. They survive off dew on the grass. Migration is a myth.

  2. QUESTION BY SYD SINGER “What do you do when your food has become feral and threatens sensitive environmental areas? At what point does a food species become an invasive species?”

    ANSWER: “Axis deer have been spotted on the Big Island, creating concerns that the invasive mammal could destroy crops, spread disease and damage fragile native ecosystems, state officials said Friday…”We consider this a serious problem with far-reaching economic and environmental impacts to the agriculture industry and native ecosystems on the island,” Aila said in a news release.” (Star Advertiser, May 27, 2011)
    http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/122760243.html

    SINGER: “We speak about sustainability in Hawaii and the need to be food self-sufficient.”

    MAUI NEWS, SEPTEMBER 27, 2009: “Warren Watanabe, president of the Maui Farm Bureau, said not only do the deer eat vegetables and flowers, particularly in Kula, but in the process they contaminate the food with E. coli bacteria. The deer have also cost Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. tens of thousands of dollars by munching on young sugar cane in the Central Maui fields. Watanabe said he’s heard enough farmer complaints in recent months to set up a meeting with the state wildlife officials to put together a new deer control plan…And don’t even ask for an accurate population estimate for Maui County; the experts’ answers are mostly anecdotal. However, they agree that the introduced animal’s numbers are spiraling out of control, as axis deer populations have grown for more than a decade across Hawaii. Something needs to be done, the experts said.”
    http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/524140/As-numbers-spiral-out-of-control–experts-SETTING-SIGHTS–on-spotted-axis-deer.html

    SINGER: “Ironically, the hunters are the predators that are needed for sheep and other ungulate management in the wild.”

    MAUI NEWS: “While hunting education classes are booked five months in advance, in general, fewer people hunt today than a generation ago. And rather than lamming it within Maui’s tremendous swaths of public forest, the animals are increasingly finding refuge in town parks and suburbia – where gunplay could land hunters behind bars”

    SO WHILE MR. SINGER LAMENTS THE PLIGHT OF MOUFLON SHEEP ON MAUNA KEA, AXIS DEER WILL BE COMING SOON TO A BIG ISLAND NEIGHBORHOOD, FARM OR GARDEN NEAR YOU.

    QUESTION FOR MR. SINGER? IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE FOOD SELF-SUFFICIENT WITHOUT FENCING OUR FOOD CROPS FROM FERAL ANIMALS LIKE AXIS DEER?

    WILL HUNTING ALONE KEEP THE AXIS DEER POPULATION UNDER “CONTROL” AS IT HAS NOT DONE ON MAUI, LANAI, OR MOLOKAI?

    DO YOU LIKE THE TASTE OF VENISON & MUTTON? CAN MAN LIVE ON VENISON AND STRAWBERRY GUAVA ALONE? OR WILL YOU BE WILLING TO LIVE WITH FENCING TO PROTECT SOME OF OUR OTHER FOOD RESOURCES, AND THE WATERSHED UPON WHICH EVERYTHING DEPENDS?

    FENCING OUT SHEEP, DEER AND OTHER UNGULATES MAY REALLY MEAN SAVING OURSELVES.

  3. In response to Nicolai Barca –

    I do agree with the idea of a balanced game management approach, and that in the past there simply was no management of our wildlife. However fencing off thousands of acres of lava rock in PTA with 7 foot high fence, and leaving sheep trapped to starve in those areas is not the answer.

    There are 2 things I have to disagree with you on, that I have seen with my own eyes.

    First it is not only recently that mamane have begun to seed. I have been hunting on Mauna Kea frequently for the past decade, and for as long as I can remember the feet of the mamane trees have always been brightly littered with their orange seeds. This means that there are plenty of seeds for the palila to eat and also that if there are any sheep in those areas they are not damaging the trees if they are able to seed.

    The second thing is that the sheep do migrate. Maybe not a migration comparable to the animals in the great planes of Africa. Nonetheless in the past I, as well as many people I know have seen large numbers of sheep (upwards of 100 animals) moving between Kipuka Ainahou and PTA via the pahoehoe lave fields behind the huluhulu hunter check in station. I have a friend that has even caught video footage of this event. We no longer see this migration due to factors such as low sheep numbers, pressure, and newly erected fences. Such an obstruction could mean the end of hunting and the wild sheep in areas such as Kipuka Ainahou.

    In response to freedomsheep above –

    You make some valid points, I am a hunter myself and I do believe that wild populations of animals can become destructive if left unchecked. However with proper management a balance between wildlife and native vegetation can be achieved. Fencing off thousands of acres and aerial eradication methods are not proper management!

    Keep in mind that this article is about wild sheep on the Big Island and not axis deer on Maui, so lets not stray too far off topic.

    You mentioned less hunters today than in past generations? I hunted in Pohakuloa Training Area just over a week ago on July 2nd. I headed home from the hunting area at 10 am because there were no recent signs of sheep nor did I see any wild sheep after walking for 4 miles. As I checked out at the hunter station over 120 hunters had already signed in on that day alone. Don’t forget that this number of hunters is far less than it used to be simply because there aren’t enough animals to hunt anymore, and it isn’t worth the trip for some with such a low success rate.

    Yes there are less hunters today, but nonetheless our numbers are not miniscule.

    So you see the pressure from eradication efforts as well as some from hunters force the wildlife to relocate to non-hunting areas such as farms and ranch lands. With no more animals in the legal hunting areas, less people want to hunt. The hunters should not be blamed for out of control populations of animals in non-hunting areas.

    You asked if hunters like the taste of venison and mutton? Of course! I have got some fine recipes and I am not sure if I know anyone who doesn’t like the taste of lamb. Do you really think that these animals are not an excellent reserve food source? I’m not sure if one could survive on vegetables, flowers, and young sugar cane alone if some sort of trade crisis were to happen.

    ” OR WILL YOU BE WILLING TO LIVE WITH FENCING TO PROTECT SOME OF OUR OTHER FOOD RESOURCES, AND THE WATERSHED UPON WHICH EVERYTHING DEPENDS? ”

    NO I am not willing to live with fences everywhere and no animals to eat. Please get your facts straight before making such comments. First of all there are no vegetative food sources that humans can eat in the areas where sheep are found (besides ohelo berries) in addition the sheep mainly inhabit areas between 6,000 and 12,000 foot elevation. These areas are well above our watershed and barely any precipitation falls there. Please don’t use the same excuses to get rid of the sheep that have been used for years. Clearly when wild sheep numbers are lower than ever and palila bird counts continue to fall, total eradication and fencing off their habitat is not the answer.

    Have a nice day.

  4. Aloha HawaiiWildlife,

    You also make some good points, and bring a Big Island perspective that I obviously lack. I too am a hunter on Maui, and I am fortunate enough to have permission and access to hunt axis deer on privately owned property (where the majority of deer are currently located…I’d love to get some of your axis deer recipes. I also loved the taste of mouflon the few times I’ve tried it).

    Because we come from different backgrounds, we view hunting differently. I didn’t have to compete with 120 other hunters over the July 4th weekend (but I still didn’t get anything). If I had to rely on my hunting skills, I would definitely starve, but I still consider it a privilege (rather than a right) to hunt on this island, and don’t expect to take an animal every week (despite the no bag limit, and year round hunting of axis deer permitted on Maui).

    You state “Keep in mind that this article is about wild sheep on the Big Island and not axis deer on Maui, so lets not stray too far off topic.”

    Mr. Singer wrote this article about sheep to promote his agenda about invasive specie. My response is about fencing, and where people feel they have the right to hunt. Although no former hunting area has been closed or fenced off (you couldn’t hunt in PTA before, right?), I like the suggestion that Tony makes in the article: “If some of the former or unsuitable ranch lands were fenced properly then the wild sheep could be relocated there. These lands have mostly grass as cattle ranching activities removed the trees. The sheep would do well and they could open seasonal to allow hunting and closed seasons for hiking and other activities. This would benefit the critical habitats, hunters and the sheep.” But make no mistake. New fencing, and improvement of existing fences is going to have to happen to prevent the damage by axis deer as they spread across the Big Island. That’s pretty much on the topic, as I’ve understood from reading the first line of this opinion piece. Or should we sacrifice the ability to grow food in order to allow deer the freedom to roam wherever they want? Or do you think that the axis deer issue has been exaggerated and the problem will go away on the Big Island?

    You state “NO I am not willing to live with fences everywhere and no animals to eat. Please get your facts straight before making such comments.” Nobody is asking you to live with fences everywhere, but should land owners and managers allow animals to live on, cross over, and feed upon the lands that they own or manage so that you can get an animal every time you go hunting? You’re obviously do not starve when you come home empty-handed, so are you more concerned with hunting success, or with food?

    You comment: “So you see the pressure from eradication efforts as well as some from hunters force the wildlife to relocate to non-hunting areas such as farms and ranch lands. With no more animals in the legal hunting areas, less people want to hunt. The hunters should not be blamed for out of control populations of animals in non-hunting areas.”

    So the hunters should not be blamed for out of control populations in non-hunting areas, but the people who fence the non-hunting areas should be blamed when the legal hunting areas can’t guarantee a kill every time someone goes hunting?

    You ask “Do you really think that these animals are not an excellent reserve food source?”

    My answer is, No. I don’t. I agree they are a food source, but not an “excellent reserve food source.” For the same reason you mention that the area can’t grow crops, and supports little other vegetation, I think that the area could support a limited number of sheep. Remember, this article isn’t about whether sheep are good to eat (I’m not arguing that). It is whether they will make Hawaii sustainable and less dependent on the mainland (They won’t). If this was really an issue about food, there would be a carefully managed herd of animals fenced in and maintained at numbers that the land could sustainably support. I guess that’s already being done, and it’s called ranching. Isn’t your argument really about hunting, rather than food? (Again, I like Tony’s suggestion about sheep being relocated & fenced in former pasture to allow hunting.)

    You state: “I’m not sure if one could survive on vegetables, flowers, and young sugar cane alone if some sort of trade crisis were to happen.”

    Seriously? That’s your argument for more mouflon sheep hunting and less fencing? If some trade crisis were to happen, mouflon sheep are not going to keep the island fed (except maybe for people who like to go hunting. But then, trade crisis, no gas. That’s a long way to walk to get sheep. Hmm. As an aside, we wouldn’t be growing sugar cane for export either). Again, it seems you are arguing more for the right to go hunting, rather than food sustainability.

    You state: “Please don’t use the same excuses to get rid of the sheep that have been used for years. Clearly when wild sheep numbers are lower than ever and palila bird counts continue to fall, total eradication and fencing off their habitat is not the answer.”

    I agree. It is more complicated, and also requires weed control, outplaning and habitat restoration, and possibly predator control. Because the degradation of palila habitat has happened over the course of several decades, it is going to take a long time to reverse the damage, and fencing and animal removal may only be the first step. Will it work? I don’t know, but I can tell you that mamane trees don’t live forever, and without new seedlings and saplings growing up to replace dead & dying adult trees, the eventual outcome will be a pasture that supports no palila in the long run. It is almost certain that the demise of the palila is the result of several factors, but please don’t tell me that mouflon are not a problem for palila habitat, either. You and Mr. Singer may consider the loss of palila a small price to pay for mouflon hunting. Fair enough.

    Anyway. Thanks for the though provoking discussion. As another hunter, I appreciate and understand your motives much more than the person who wrote this opinion, and I sincerely hope that you will continue to be able to hunt (with success) for the rest of your life. Now come over to Maui & help yourself to some of our 1000’s of axis deer (plenty landowners are looking for help to keep control deer on their property).

    A hui hou

  5. freedomsheep –

    I am glad that there are some things that we can agree upon and that we are able to have this discussion. I find it interesting to hear the perspective of a maui hunter, as I am sure you know more about the axis deer than I do. At first I mistook you for one of those people who hate anything non-native. I do understand that as unique as people are, so too are their beliefs. With such complex issues there are no definite right or wrong solutions.

    Perhaps I should have been a little clearer and given some background information. When I said I don’t want to see fences everywhere I meant in forest reserves and hunting areas on the big island. I agree that farmers have every right to fence off their own property and protect their crops, and nobody should give up the ability to grow their own food.

    The areas that I, as well as the article are referring to are nowhere near any farmlands. In fact the entire mauna kea forest reserve is completely fenced off and surrounded by ranchlands except for the side that is adjacent to the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA). The video link that was attached to the article was of a fenced off area within PTA. Slowly over the past few years the military has been fencing off PTA in a grid like fashion and removing the animals from each plot, whether it be starving them, or shooting them. It will resemble a checkerboard of fences when viewed from above with no wildlife at all present when it is complete. This is what I oppose. PTA sits dead center between mauna kea, mauna loa, and hualalai. Once fencing is complete, the animals will no longer be able to move from one area to another and can be systematically eliminated for good. Previously PTA was open for hunting very frequently and was an excellent hunting area, however they only open it occasionally now. With 7 foot high fences everywhere and so many of the animals eradicated it is not what it used to be.

    Personally I am not the type of hunter that needs to get a kill on each outing. I have passed up numerous animals that aren’t mature enough, or are struggling to survive by themselves in remote areas, and have gone home empty handed many times. For me hunting is about the outing itself and being able to enjoy the sight of animals in the wild. Although bringing home some meat to grill is definitely a plus!

    On the issue of sustainability, I am not saying that wild sheep alone will make Hawaii independent from trade. Rather, if our dry upland forests can support them we should value them a lot more as a resource instead of trying to totally eliminate them. It is an amazing feat in itself that the sheep can even survive in such dry and desolate areas. I feel that a balanced hybrid ecosystem with native plants as well as some animals that can be hunted and eaten, is far more superior than a purely native forest with absolutely nothing edible in it. That is the reason why sailors dropped off sheep and goats on so many islands in the first place, as a readily established emergency food source in the event that they were stranded on any of those islands.

    Referring to the axis deer on the big island, I haven’t heard of anyone even seeing one of them yet besides DOFAW staff. I can’t say for sure what would happen if they are here, however the areas that DOFAW suspects them to be located in do seem a bit exaggerated. They claim that the deer have been spotted in kohala, mauna kea, kona, and kau. I find it difficult for such a small amount of deer to be so widespread, there are many miles and many fences between each of these areas. I do know that the four areas mentioned consist of many acres of cattle ranchlands, the only large farming operations that come to mind near those areas are mac nut farms in kau, and coffee farms in kona, although there may be some others I am forgetting. Not sure what kind of impact the deer would have on those.

    I guess the major difference that I am trying to point out is that fences are being erected on the big island to facilitate the removal of animals, and to protect non edible native plants. Whereas the gist I get from you is that on maui fences are put up to protect actual crops and food sources. I totally agree with the use of fences to protect our food and crops, but not with the use of fences to isolate and completely kill off our wildlife.

    Thanks for the input, and good luck hunting those axis.

    • Shame on you all, especially you Sydney Ross Singer! I expect this kind of talk about killing defenseless animals from the bloodthirsty hunters, but I was hoping of more from you.

      I’ve been a quiet admirer of yours for some time now, and was always impressed by your willingness to champion our Earth Mother’s most helpless creatures. It breaks my heart to see those poor sheep dying of thirst in that harsh wilderness, but to take sides with the people who would shoot those same harmless animals is truly unconscionable. I sincerely hope that you will see the error of your ways and will not continue to support this slaughter of the innocents. We in PETA remember who is truly with us, and who is against us.

      The only true path to sustainability is to adopt a vegetarian diet, and the sooner you all accept this, the sooner you will be able to achieve a higher state of consciousness and inner peace.

      Yours with peace and love

  6. Shame on you Rainbowgoddess, this article isn’t about killing those poor starving sheep it is about saving them. How insulting it is to be falsely accused of what you are saying, I myself as a hunter would certainly not kill a young and starving animal. You are quick to judge with such ignorance.

    You said: “It breaks my heart to see those poor sheep dying of thirst in that harsh wilderness” Then please rally your troops at PETA and help save the sheep and goats! Stop the eradication of wild sheep in Hawaii!

    You must have surely read the article released in April 2011 about the recent eradication of goats in the Pohakuloa Training Area where over 500 goats were shot via helicopter and left to rot? How does that make you, and your colleagues feel? I think that was a terrible thing for the military to do, what a waste of life! Why was everyone silent then?

    It seems to me that hunters are much more concerned with the fate of the animals than many animal lovers such as yourself are! Instead of directing your efforts toward insulting the hunters and outstanding community members such as Sydney Ross Singer, why don’t you focus on helping the very animals that are suffering?

    Just some food for thought. Good luck obtaining inner peace with your vegetarian diet.

  7. Dear Mr. HawaiiWildlife,

    We are not some group of meek pacifists who can be intimidated by bullying tactics and tough talk. Believe me. We take action when action is necessary.

    You want us to protest the eradication of goats by the military? Why? Just so you and your hunting buddies can continue to kill these same animals year after year. Nice try. The only difference between the goat eradicators and you are that they want to murder all of the animals at once. You, on the other hand, want to make sure they are around to kill every week of the year, year after year.

    You think we are ignorant and uneducated and do not see what is going on. In nature, predators single out the weak, the old and the infirm, and take only what they need to survive. In this way, both the predators thrive and the herd grows stronger.

    How is hunting different? You said you would never kill a young and starving animal. Thank you for proving my point. You and your kind are only interested in taking the biggest, healthiest animals with the largest horns, and you cut down animals in the prime of their life. This never happens in nature.

    You and your Maui Crony, Mr. Freedomsheep, both talk about there being fewer hunters in the islands. That is the only positive news I’ve taken from this entire discussion. The truth is your way of life is disappearing not because of some goat eradication by the military, or some fences, but because the majority of people do not enjoy killing animals. I know that is hard to accept, and makes you angry, but it is the truth.

    And thank you. I will enjoy my vegetarian diet. You should try it. It will help your blood pressure and gout.

  8. Rainbowgoddess –

    Exactly how do you determine when it is necessary to take action? Please inform me.

    You said: “You want us to protest the eradication of goats by the military? Why? “ WHY?! Because it is WRONG! How do you justify sitting back and letting 500 animals die in one day without saying a single word? Does that not upset you?

    Hunters would never be able to do such a thing, nor are they open firing on them with machine guns from helicopters. You are completely wrong in thinking that we want them around to slowly kill them off year by year until they are all gone. It would take me near 100 years at the rate I am going to kill 500 animals.

    You say that predators only take what they need, well so do hunters. Hunting is much more difficult than you make it out to be, the average success rate for a hunting trip is well below 50%. If I am lucky I am able to bring home a handful of animals to eat throughout an entire year. Not 500 in one day. Unfortunately I am not able to hunt every week of the year, year after year, as you may believe. I am content with the occasional outing with a friend or family member.

    Hunting is not about killing, it is about tradition, culture, and skills passed on for generations. If hunters were not responsible and concerned with management, there would be nothing left for future generations. Hunters would never want to completely wipe out all of the animals, we would be eliminating our very way of life. You see hunting is more about management than destruction. I leave the young animals so that they may grow and live out their life until their prime and they are able to reproduce. If hunters killed all the young and weak all the time, then with no new members surviving an entire herd will die once the animals in their prime get old and can no longer reproduce. So you see we need the young to survive to prevent extinction. You also mentioned hunters taking the animals with the largest horns, hmm, ironically those are usually the oldest animals that have already lived out their life and produced offspring to ensure the survival of their species. Do you honestly think that hunters should be killing babies rather than mature animals? At least when I kill a few animals a year I use them to feed my friends and family rather than letting 500 of them rot on the mountain side to feed the flies and rats.

    You also mentioned that the majority of people do not enjoy killing animals. Agreed, but when it comes to the ethical treatment of animals I will surely choose to kill and eat a wild organic free ranging animal over one who is injected with steroids and stands in its own feces all day, only to be ground up into hamburger and served at mcdonalds.

    Now one thing I am wondering is why your opinion of hunters is so skewed? It seems that you hate us “bloodthirsty” hunters, when you don’t even know much about us. I don’t go around preaching how living a vegetarian life is wrong and unenlightened. I am sure that if you trace back your ancestry you will find that many family members of your own were once hunters.

    Fortunately I don’t suffer from high blood pressure and gout. However I do enjoy eating vegetables too, they taste especially good with meat.

  9. I would like to comment on this debate that has developed regarding hunting versus animal rights.

    Philosophical differences aside, the reality of the situation is that there are sheep and goats in Hawaii’s wild areas which need management, which includes population control. Except for the occasional pack of dogs, there are no predators for these large animals in Hawaii apart from humans.

    The issue, then, becomes how to humanely and effectively manage these herds of feral animals. So far, the methods used are a) mass slaughter from government (federal and state) sponsored aerial shootings, b) hunters, and c) starving the animals by fencing them out from food and water.

    The alternative, of course, is leaving the sheep and goats alone to overpopulate, harm the environment, and ultimately die from disease, starvation, or packs of dogs.

    I think almost everyone is uncomfortable with the situation and the solutions.

    Invasion biologists consider all these animals “invasive” and want them eradicated by any means and wild areas protected with fencing. The hunters want to selectively manage herds for sustainable hunting, which means hunters are invested in these animals being managed and sustained, not eradicated. The animals rights community wants to stop anyone from harming these animals, but offers no solution to the overpopulation dilemma. And environmental managers need to balance these various interests and values with available funding and with no outcome satisfying everyone.

    Meanwhile, right now, sheep are starving and dying of thirst up on Mauna Kea. Moving them to hunting areas where they can find food and water seems the most humane solution. This may not satisfy the extreme animal rights position, but I don’t see any other ideas being proposed.

    By the way, it was a hunter, nearly in tears, who provided me with the video of the starving sheep.

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