The Department of Land and Natural Resources Friday announced three upcoming aerial hunts of feral ungulates in several areas of the Big Island.
Hawaii County Game Management Advisory Commission member Tony Sylvester said this time, the department seems to have heard at least some of island hunters’ complaints about earlier shoots.
During the last shoot, earlier this year, DLNR “shot 769 sheep and recovered only about 150,” Sylvester said Friday. “The rest were left to rot.”
As with previous hunts, Hawaii Island hunters were outraged at the waste, Sylvester said. Hunters also contacted West Hawaii Today at the time to complain about the minimal notice the department provided about the hunt and the limited number of salvage permits issued.
This time, DLNR is allowing hunters to apply for permits starting several days before and up to the day before the hunt, as well as offering standby positions in case someone is unable to use their permit, Sylvester said.
“That should help out a little bit,” he added.
The concessions don’t completely quell hunters’ concerns, though.
“Our question was, why can’t they do this one a weekend,” Sylvester said. “They would get more participation.”
The DLNR is under a federal mandate to protect the palila in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and the Kaohe Game Management area, as well as in lands set aside specifically as palila mitigation lands.
Part of that federal mandate requires the removal of mouflon and feral sheep from those lands.
DLNR officials said Friday they intend to trap, and use staff hunters and aerial hunters during three two-day events. The first will be July 15 and 16, followed by Aug. 28 and 29 and Sept. 3 to 6.
Public access to the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve, the palila mitigation lands, the Kaohe Game Management Area and the Mauna Kea Hunter Access Road will be restricted those days, with access allowed by permit only.
The Hale Pohaku and Kilohana gated entrances to Units A and G and the gate behind Mauna Kea State Recreation Area will be locked at 7 p.m. July 14, Aug. 27 and Sept. 2.
The gates will reopen at 7 p.m. the final day of each hunt.
People wishing to apply for a permit to salvage a carcass must call the Division of Forestry and Wildlife office in Waimea at 887-6063, beginning 9 a.m. Wednesday through 10 a.m. the day before each shoot day, officials said.
The department will issue one permit per call per vehicle for one day only. People given standby status will not be allowed to wait at the gates or be granted access at the gates without a permit.
When calling to apply for the permit, the caller should provide the name of the driver and any passengers, the vehicle’s license plate number and the make and model of the vehicle.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are required.
The salvage location for July 16, Aug. 28 and 29, and Sept. 4 and 6 is Kaluamakani. Permittees must meet across from the Waimea Veterinary office on Mana Road at 6 a.m. On Sept. 3 and 5, salvage will take place at Puu Koohi.
Permittees must meet at Mauna Kea State Park at 7 a.m.
Fifteen vehicles will be allowed at the Puu Koohi location and 10 vehicles at the Kaluamakani location, officials said.
DLNR officials said they offered no guarantee animals will be able to be salvaged.
Hawaii County enacted a ban last year on all aerial hunting, but a federal judge earlier this year said that ban did not overrule a federal mandate to reduce grazing animals in palila habitat on Mauna Kea.