August 21, 2012 at 7:18 PM HST - Updated June 27 at 11:30 PM
By AUDREY McAVOY Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) - A helicopter pilot is pleading guilty to illegally flying deer from Maui to the Big Island, shedding light on a mystery that has been bewildering Hawaii: How did axis deer, an animal that can't swim across the ocean, get to another island?
But now federal authorities say the people behind the scheme also took several mouflon sheep from the Big Island and flew them to Maui.
Neither axis deer nor mouflon sheep are native to Hawaii and don't have natural predators here. Their presence has damaged fragile native ecosystems on the islands where they've become established.
The alleged animal smugglers took the sheep to a Maui hunting ranch, and apparently, didn't release them to the wild. But the sheep's arrival on Maui for the first time is still alarming conservationists.
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