Monday | January 16, 2017
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Aerial hunts under fire: Restriction on meat recovery unpopular

Hawaii Island hunters are again expressing concerns over the state’s aerial sheep eradication.

This time, though, hunters aren’t focusing on the hunts themselves, which a federal court ruled should be allowed to continue, despite a county ban on the practice. Shecky Cabulizan said this time, his concern is the Department of Land and Natural Resources offered to let hunters come and claim sheep carcasses and even scheduled several hunters to do so on Monday and again tomorrow, but won’t let anyone sign up to pick up the animals on Thursday.

“I would actually go up there on Thursday to go get the meat so it doesn’t rot,” Cabulizan said Monday.

He learned Monday afternoon that DLNR was doing another hunt, its first in more than a year, and that hunters could claim the meat. But when he called the Division of Forestry and Wildlife Office in Waimea, he was told it was too late to sign up for a permit. The sign up ended Thursday, he said.

“The permit waiver form, it just said you’re not going to hold DOFAW and (the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement) responsible for anything,” Cabulizan said. “They already have the permits. There’s a lot of people willing to go and get the meat and they won’t let us.”

Cabulizan had a friend who was able to retrieve sheep carcasses Monday, and state employees told Cabulizan’s friend two trucks were signed up to get carcasses on Wednesday. Cabulizan was unsure whether anyone had a permit for today. But he couldn’t understand why DLNR wouldn’t let him sign up for the permit for Thursday on Monday.

DLNR did advertise the hunt and the availability of permits to pick up the carcasses in the newspaper, Game Management Advisory Commission member Tony Sylvester said. He remembers the notice specifically because it ran the weekend before the U.S. District Court granted DLNR’s request to resume the hunts.

A DLNR spokeswoman responded to a phone call Monday afternoon, but could not comment on the situation immediately. She offered to follow up today.

Hunters have voiced several concerns about the aerial eradication efforts on Mauna Kea, with displeasure over the carcasses being left to rot ranking high on that list. Hunters also cite concerns about the dwindling ungulate population in areas open for hunting, as well as decreasing hunting areas. Environmentalists argue the ungulates are so damaging to native plants — and the plants that house native, endangered bird species — that benefits of using helicopters for aerial eradication outweigh the negative consequences hunters report.

A 1998 order requires DLNR to remove sheep and other feral ungulates from areas of Mauna Kea where the endangered palila nests. DLNR last month requested an expedited hearing before the U.S. District Court, seeking guidance as to whether DLNR employees or its contractors could be prosecuted by Hawaii County officials for conducting the aerial hunts.