Solutions sought for wild horses
Six of the Big Island animals were shot dead last month
Some Big Island residents are trying to decide what to do with dozens of wild horses roaming Waipio Valley after six of the animals were killed by a taro farmer.
Initial solutions proposed at a community meeting this weekend included creating a sanctuary for the horses or taking them away for sale, said Dr. William Bergin, a veterinarian from nearby Waimea.
Saturday's informational gathering at Tex's Drive Inn in Honokaa was organized by Josi Morgan of the Hawaii Island Humane Society after six horses were shot dead last month, Bergin said.
Morgan could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Bergin said she took it upon herself to bring together area residents, taro farmers and landowners to find a way to deal with the horses without harming them.
The state offers permits that allow landowners to kill wild animals if their property or crop is at risk, said Peter Young, who chairs the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. He could not say whether there were such permits for wild horses.
The valley is mostly owned by Kamehameha Schools and the Bishop Museum, Young said, but the state would be willing to assist if asked to.
Calling the feral animals an "old problem," Ann Smith, manager of Waipio Valley Wagon Tours, said the horses sometimes sneak into her property to eat.
"My problem is that they like to break into my stable area and eat the very expensive feeds that we have," said Smith, whose company takes customers through the valley in a wooden wagon. "Every once in a while they go in and have a picnic and it costs me 60 or 70 bucks."
The valley's wild horse population is unknown, but Bergin says there could be up to 40 horses living in its 3,000 acres on the island's north shore. The horses, he said, were brought in the mid-1800s and early 1900s to help farmers with taro crops, but many were let loose, replaced by trucks and tractors at the end of World War II.
"That's when the gates were open on them, and they just became feral," said Bergin, who is finishing a documentary about horses in Hawaii and would like to see the animals preserved.
"They are an icon of old Hawaii," he said, suggesting a sanctuary where vaccinated horses could thrive before being put up for sale or adoption. "It's just as much a part of Hawaii as the mustangs are part of Nevada."
The Rev. Penei Aller, who runs Beach Weddings Hawaii, said the horses have never interfered with ceremonies where couples pose for photos with the valley's lush slopes and waterfalls as a backdrop.
"They are fairly wild, but you can approach them," Aller said. "I would rather see the situation handled humanely than violently."