Axis Deer Having Negative Impact in the Hawaiian Islands

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BY SEN. GILBERT KAHELE, D-BIG ISLAND – Recently, it seems that there has been a spate of news headlines about invasive species with snakes, horned lizards, and flying squirrels.

While I do want to prevent these exotic animals from making their homes here in Hawaii, I want to draw some attention to another animal that is already here in Hawaii, and could pose a threat to our home here on the Big Island.


Axis deer have established populations on the islands of Lanai, Molokai and Maui. Most recently, a Maui reporter wrote an article in August entitled, “D’oh! A Deer,” that highlighted the devastating effects that axis deer has had on the people of Maui.

With a voracious appetite, the deer are not picky when it comes to food. From pineapple to sugar cane to vegetables in local gardens, the deer does not discriminate in its diet. Their foraging also creates problems for ranchers as the deer can wipe out large grassy fields that their herds use as grazing areas.

Add to this the fact that the deer’s feces can carry diseases that can be passed on to people and it becomes clear that axis deer is a serious problem.

What would a population of axis deer mean for the Big Island? Coffee and macadamia nut farms have been longstanding industries for the Big Island, with our burgeoning Ka‘u coffee industry beginning to receive international attention.

The demand for ono local beef from our ranches in Ka‘u, Waimea, and other parts of the Big Island has grown as people heed the call to eat local.

Also, our nurseries and beautiful anthurium farms – imagine the ravaging effects a herd of axis deer could have on these industries.

As outlined in a Honolulu Star Advertiser article on May 28, 2011 and based on the best evidence I have available to me, I believe that axis deer may be making its way to the Big Island.

Knowing the negative impacts that will occur to the environment and our local industry, I am doing everything in my power to prevent this animal from establishing itself on the Big Island.

By working with the state Department of Agriculture, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the state Department of the Attorney General, and the governor, I am hoping to nip this problem in the bud.

I am working with DLNR to change Hawaii Administrative Rule 13-124 to designate axis deer as an injurious species to ensure that its possession and potential transport between islands is regulated.

This is meant as an interim step to limit any transport of axis deer to the Big Island until the upcoming 2012 Legislative Session where I plan to introduce legislation meant to more permanently address this issue.

I cannot stress how vital I believe this issue is to the health of our local economy and ecosystem. I will continue to push for awareness on this issue, knowing that with early action we can protect our home, the Big Island.





  1. In my OPINION, I would love to have the good Senator have the DLNR provide some proof to the hysterical revelations that the Axis deer are established between South Point and the Kohala Watershed. I’d also remind him to have some critical thought about the plight of the Palila, which according to the Audubon, are scheduled to go extinct in 2013. (

    Why you need to apply some critical thought to these claims of the Audubon and the Sierra Club and the Conservation Corps’ of Hawaii and elsewhere, is that their facts are not challenged and are blindly swallowed by the likes our elected, those we elected with the premise we expect critical thought from you all.

    As to the Palila, the Audubon is decrying the plummeting numbers of the Palila, and the need for millions of dollars to do irrelevant fencing and unnecessary limitations on outdoor recreation, such as hunting. The Environmentalists have been very vociferous in their constant crisis scenarios, whether the Palila or the Axis, for if they can stop hunting or other outdoor recreation in favor of their control of land use. Government money for them, or capitalist dollars for the rest of us?

    I would ask the good Senator to question the actual facts around the Palila going back to 1980, where you can see that the Palila have a constant history of fluctuation between 1300 and 6000 birds. Question how after the initial slaughter of the sheep on Mauna Kea the birds went up to 6000 and then plummeted to 1300 several years later. Sheep? Hardly. Rain? Now that the mountain is overgrown with weeds and vines, they claim success, though the Palila are still crashing… with hardly any sheep on the mountain suffering from quarterly aerial slaughter. But they were in full crisis mode and now have fences, at a cost of millions, around Mauna Kea, and its too late, all the fences in the world will not make a single change in the Palila Population. But it rained a little this year, lets see next year… and their claim the fence did it it… which might be good, because 5 years from now when they slide again to 1000 birds, they have nothing to stand on.

    Enter the Axis. I can see the next push for universal fencing around our forests by the Environmental community. Another crisis; The axis… What we have is a crisis of, are elected officials who don’t question. What we have a crisis of, are elected officials who pour millions into environmental remedy that haven’t succeeded, or succeed, except to modify the public’s right to access… RIGHT TO ACCESS, it is OUR LAND, not yours, theirs or the anyone’s other than the CITIZENS OF HAWAII…. all of us. I’d like to see the incorporation of sensibility into our management of Hawaii’s lands, now totally lacking; and I’d like to see the State finally recognize that we have a constituency of 1.5 million here in Hawaii, not just a few.

    Use the Axis, the Sheep, the Turkey to benefit Hawaii instead of the current path of draining resources into provable failed policy… such as the Palila, the Alala, and a host of other policies that restrict land use all based upon a “guess and by golly”, except that by golly, the rest of us now cannot enjoy the forest in the way we once did.


  2. Lets get real. Feces carrying disease? This is the case with just about any animal. Rats, mice, snails, birds, pigs, you name it. Any particular disease that should scare us when around deer poop?

    Sure, deer eat lots of things but it is a bit of an exaggeration to say they do not discriminate about what they eat.

    The Senator should look at the information available and know that the deer are already here in small numbers. I suppose with new laws you can close the barn door after the horse is gone, and I guess it might cut down the chances of more imports from Maui or Molokai.

    The deer are a problem on Maui for some people, and a boon to others who value them as a source of good food and hunting. Control of the population gets down to large landowners: 1) Letting hunters in to harvest them, 2) Hiring people to come in to reduce them, 3) Make the government come in to reduce them. It is highly unlikely that they will be completely eradicated given the terrain. The government certainly cannot afford to make a concerted effort.

    Pigs and goats are vastly more destructive than deer and massive efforts have not come close to controlling them. It is instructive to note that the government still supports these populations and controls hunting through access and hunting seasons. This indicates there is a concern for the people hunting and trapping for food. This is not a simple situation and the needs of all these groups need to be taken into account.

  3. Thanks guys, love your comments. The public needs to fight back with truth, and stand up for the rights of the people. The deer drama is all propaganda. The deer have been in the Islands since the 1800s, they didn’t just arrive yesterday. No one knows how long they have been on the Big Island. The government and all of its “conservationists” are spreading fear and panic with exaggerations and lies so they can further deprive Island families of wild game and access to the public wilderness lands, while lining their pockets with tax payer funds.

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