Volunteers removed about 140 sheep from the Bradshaw Army Airfield at Pohakuloa Training Area, sending about 70 to the Keamuku parcel and another 70 into the general training area.
Lt. Col. Eric Schwedo, PTA’s commander, said he has been working with the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife on a comprehensive game management plan that opens the Army’s Keamuku parcel, bought from Parker Ranch, for more hunting. Schwedo, who hunted growing up in North Carolina and Georgia, said he saw sheep and goats on the land and wanted to be able to help hunters get more access.
About 85 people volunteered for the Dec. 1 sheep roundup, Schwedo said. The sheep were creating a safety hazard, particularly when grazing in herds of 30 or more near the airstrip. The sheep also ate all of the vegetation around the airstrip, which led to aircraft stirring up a significant amount of dust during takeoff and landing. The dust created brownout conditions, Army officials said.
“I can’t imagine anything worse than not allowing hunting at Keamuku,” Schwedo said Monday, adding he sees large numbers of feral sheep and goats in the area as he drives to work.
The plan is to increase the sheep herd in Keamuku, by corralling and bringing in more sheep, then opening the area for hunters at some point in the future.
“We don’t want to hunt it out,” Schwedo said.
Volunteers on foot and ATVs moved the animals to a corral, clearing the cantonment area and land surrounding the airstrip.
Division of Forestry and Wildlife wildlife biologist Hans Sin said the sheep from the airfield area aren’t in good enough shape for hunting yet.
“The habitat (around) the airstrip is poor,” Sin said. “It’s very degraded. The animals were pretty malnourished.”
Keamuku will be a better environment for the animals, and moving as many as possible from the airfield to Keamuku, rather than just chasing all of the sheep out into the open PTA land, will prevent the sheep from grazing near or crossing Saddle Road, which would have been a hazard for motorists, Sin added.
He said Division of Forestry and Wildlife would monitor the sheep population for about a year, to see how the herd grows.
The roundup went smoothly, Schwedo said.
“It was absolutely successful for what we needed,” he added.
The airstrip area began with about 180 sheep inside.
Division of Forestry and Wildlife will use pens, with one-way gates, to trap the remainder of the sheep inside the training area.