Conservation Council for Hawai‘i
Working today for the Nature of Tomorrow
Damage by Introduced Game Animals
Before humans entered the equation, plants and animals arrived in the Hawaiian Islands by chance, “by wind, wave, and wing.” Over a period of tens of millions of years, only about 2,000 ancestral species made it to the Hawaiian islands and successfully established themselves – an average rate of just one new species every several thousand years. The plants and animals that did make it to these shores evolved into new species in the absence of grazing mammals and the pests they aid and abet. Hawaiian species never developed defenses against such organisms and are highly vulnerable to their effects.

Starting in 1778 with the arrival of Captain Cook, European boars, sheep, goats, and deer have been brought to the islands and released to be used as game animals. The range of number of these animals has burgeoned, and they now occupy natural areas from near sea level (goats on Nä Pali Coast, Kaua‘i) to over 8,900 feet elevation (mouflon sheep on Mauna Kea). Feral and domestic cattle are also present in State Forest Reserves and private watersheds. These browsing and grazing animals are excluded from native ecosystems only where fences have been constructed and maintained. They are capable of transforming entire native ecosystems to weed-dominated wastelands by consuming native plants, trampling roots and seedlings, accelerating erosion, and promoting weed invasion. They threaten streams, wetlands, and coral reefs as well.

On West Kauai, goats contribute to landslides and erosion by overgrazing and by converting native ecosystems to areas dominated by shallow-rooted invasive species.
Hawaii’s Game Management Agency
Since 1959, introduced game animals have been managed for public hunting by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR/DOFAW). Despite that fact that less than 1% of Hawaii residents purchase hunting licenses, the range of the animals is virtually unlimited on state lands, and bag limits and seasons have been imposed to keep the number of animals high.

A Backward Paradigm
Meanwhile, individuals, businesses, and land managers have been forced to fence game animals out. Most of the watersheds, however, have not been fenced.

The paradigm for the State’s hunting program is backward. Taxpayers eat all the costs because game animals have been mismanaged for decades and DOFAW is resistant to change. Putting the burden on the public is a bad habit that people don’t even question anymore. Let’s question what is being done and not done to protect public land!

Read more in: Wildlife in the Garden, Star-Bulletin, August 6, 2006

Return to Introduced Game Animal Control Campaign page