Twice-weekly pig hunts target feral population
Twice-a-week pig hunting in the upper Manoa Valley begins Sunday and will continue for a year, the state announced yesterday.
It's the latest attempt by the Department of Land and Natural Resources to reduce the number of feral animals venturing down from Forest Reserve land to root in suburban back yards.
Some Manoa residents say they welcome the hunters, while others say catching pigs with snares has been more effective.
SPECIAL WILD PIG CONTROL HUNT
» When: Wednesdays and Sundays, sunup to sundown, until Feb. 4, 2008. Trial full-moon hunts also will be scheduled.
» Where: Honolulu Forest Reserve land including the Honolulu mauka trail system, from Makiki-Tantalus across Manoa Valley to Waahila Ridge and including portions of Pauoa Flats west of Makiki/Tantalus ridge.
» Why: To reduce the number of wild pigs rooting in the Forest Reserve, which is the Ala Wai Watershed's recharge zone, and in people's yards.
» Who: Temporary wildlife control permit applicants, who have a valid Hawaii hunting license and photo identification, a vehicle description and license number, and phone number. Call 628-1381 for a permit appointment.
"I think it's necessary," said Terry Day, who lives on Beaumont Woods Place in Manoa Valley. "Nobody's keen on it, but something's got to be done."
"The pigs are very dangerous," Day said. "They've gotten emboldened and come right behind houses everywhere you look. They're used to human smells and noises and are not going to be frightened away."
At least not by mere humans. But humans with hunting dogs are expected to drive away pigs they don't catch, said Dave Smith, DLNR district wildlife manager for Oahu.
Though it's impossible to estimate how many pigs there are in Manoa Valley, it is clear that they are causing damage, Smith said. "If hunters are able to hunt in an area, they keep pigs below nuisance level," he said.
Registered hunters can hunt on Wednesdays and Sundays with dogs and knives or with a bow and arrow, but not with guns, according to the DLNR's Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
The Honolulu Mauka Trail System, which includes interconnecting trails in Manoa and adjacent valleys, is normally a nonhunting area, since so many people hike there and residences are close by.
Special hunts were held there twice before: In 2002, using three-month hunting cycles, 15 feral pigs were caught; and in 2004-05, 22 pigs were caught.
Those numbers don't impress Sarah Preble, who has had 22 pigs trapped in her own back yard since 2001, she said.
"I am not impressed with what the DLNR is doing" with the temporary hunts, Preble said.
Hunters using snares on private land are harvesting more pigs than that, Preble said. "One person who does snares has got over 200 pigs out of a neighbor's back yard" over the years, she said.
Smith counters that hunting with dogs affects more animals than the pigs that are removed.
Snares "picks them off one by one, quietly," he said, while the "terrorism" of the hunt "disrupts the population," spreading them out and reducing their reproductive rates.
Hunters who want to hunt in Manoa must apply for a special wildlife control permit. As of yesterday afternoon, no one had applied, but the word is not out yet to the pig-hunting community that the area will be open, said wildlife assistant Mahina Lee.
Pascual Dabis, treasurer of the Oahu Pig Hunters Association, said only two groups of hunters can comfortably hunt Manoa Valley on any one day, "because there's a limited amount of area that they really can hunt."
Many members of the group prefer to hunt in Oahu's 11 public hunting areas or to trap pigs when called by homeowners who want the pigs out.
Dabis uses a box trap to catch pigs and already has nabbed four in Manoa this year. Some others use snares.
Pigs, which are not native to Hawaii, root in the soil for earthworms and other food, Smith said. Their "tilling" leads to erosion, which is bad for the forest, the watershed and the residents downhill, Smith said.