How to solve the axis deer problem? Maui mayoral candidates take starkly different stances

Axis deer continue to have devastating impacts to Maui County farmers and ranchers.
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 6:47 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 17, 2022 at 9:02 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Axis deer continue to have devastating impacts to Maui County farmers and ranchers — and the two candidates for mayor have differing views on how to solve the problem.

Retired Judge Richard Bissen took a hard stance on the issue during a debate at Seabury Hall on Saturday evening and said the solution is eradication.

“This is not mitigation, this is eradication,” Bissen said.

“They are growing faster than we can control them, and it is without question the biggest concern for our watersheds. So, when I say eradicate, that is exactly the word I mean.”

Incumbent Michael Victorino said he wants to get the population to a manageable number.

The population has exploded to an estimated 60,000, becoming disastrous to several farmers and ranchers.

Victorino said he would like to see that number drop to 25,000 deer.

“I don’t like to say eradicate, I say mitigate, get the herds under control so that we can have a viable source of an economic engine. Venison could be a vital source,” Victorino said.

Maui hunters agree.

“We wouldn’t be able to eat, meat is taken away, food that we would have,” said Troy Helmer, Maui Hunters and Sportsmen Club president. “We make sausage, we make hamburger … you can put it in everything, So, yeah, we utilize all of our meat and it’s a resource that we don’t want to see get thrown away or wasted.”

Farmers and ranchers say the deer have been detrimental.

For many, a total eradication may be too bold of a statement.

However, they would support an eradication in certain areas.

“As a farmer, they’re just a terrible nuisance that causes huge economic damage,” said Kula Country Farms owner Chauncy Monden. “I don’t think there’s a need for having deer all over the island.

“I don’t want them in my farm at all.”

The election is on Nov. 8. Voters could receive their ballots in the mail by the end of the week.