Hunters balk over state's invasive animal kills by air

Hunters criticize DLNR's plan to protect watersheds by shooting from a chopper
Published: Sep. 12, 2017 at 2:14 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 12, 2017 at 10:59 AM HST
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WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu hunters are criticizing the Department of Land and Natural Resources over an aerial eradication program meant to protect native watersheds.

A legal noticed posted in July said crews would only shoot feral pigs, but in August, DLNR said it shot 85 goats in the Waianae and Koolau mountain ranges.

"There was just a bunch of gunfire," said Michael Sturm of the Waianae Hunters Association.

Sturm said he was hunting in the Waianae Kai Forest Reserve on August 23rd when he noticed shots coming from a helicopter.

He said it caught him by surprise.

"There were no notifications posted at the other access points and we went up there just to hike and have a look out," said Sturm. "My first instinct was to get down as quickly as possible."

Sturm said he was aware of DLNR's eradication project, which is meant to kill over invasive animals to protect the watershed, but he said he was told the operation would first focus on Lualualei and Honouliuli Forest Reserves, and that the Waianae Kai Forest Reserve wouldn't be touched until the end of the year.

"I'm very active in the community I've been involved with DLNR in the last several months and I've heard nothing of it," said Sturm.

But the DLNR told Hawaii News Now it began informing the public as far back as February.

Officials met with lawmakers, published a legal notice in July and sent letters to community leaders.

We obtained one letter, that does cite specific dates, but it was addressed to the wrong person.

Kellen Smith who sits on the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board said they never heard from DLNR until August, once operations were already underway.

"We thought there wasn't enough time for the community to vett the issue and come up with win-win solutions," Smith said.

Smith and Sturm said DLNR told them it would work with the community to come up with more efficient ways to get rid of the goats, now they feel misled.

"We had some good solutions, but they just came in and shot them anyways and the meat is just up there rotting and it's sad, it's wasteful," Smith said.

DLNR said the aerial shooting operations will happen quarterly for the foreseable future, but the spokesperson wouldn't provide any dates.

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