Cattle hunters get green light on Big Isle
A plan to kill off wandering cattle begins next month
HILO » Next month will be open season on some cattle when state land officials add stray cattle in the Hilo watershed area to the list of animals to be eradicated in a series of open hunts.
On Nov. 5 the state will begin the hunts on "feral and trespass" cattle found above the city each weekend and state holiday through Nov. 26.
Although the state has worked with ranchers on the Big Island to fix their fences and to remove wandering cattle from state forest reserves, more than 100 cows remain the in the area that stretches north from Saddle Road and along the slopes of Mauna Kea to Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which regulates the hunts.
"Cattle pose a major threat to our native forests," she said. "They remove the native understory vegetation, allowing alien weeds to move in and take over the native forest. They lower the quality of our watersheds by removing native vegetation and compacting soils, which results in increased surface runoff and less percolation through the soil."
Each licensed hunter will be permitted to kill and remove two cattle per day, with no season limit. Access to the state land will be from Saddle Road, unless the hunter obtains a special permit from the state.
Although the state has had problems with cattle on state land on other parts of the Big Island, the numbers are too low to justify a hunt, Ward said.
Public notices have been published informing people of trespassing cattle on state forest lands in Hilo, Hamakua, South Kona, Kohala and Kau. The ranchers affected must remove their cattle within 30 days or risk having the state eradicate them.
Meanwhile, aerial shooting of sheep and goats from the endangered palila bird's habitat on the slopes of Mauna Kea was to take place this week. The state is under a federal court order to eliminate the feral sheep and goats from the palila's critical habitat.