Donkey crossing


POSTED: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Feral donkeys in search of food and water in parched West Hawaii are causing thousands of dollars in damage to private property.

Jim Whillock hired extra nighttime hands to chase them away from Waikoloa Village Golf Course.

The donkeys are eating the grass, causing $20,000 damage to the course, and leaving dung, said Whillock, the association manager. The donkeys have also wandered onto private residences in the community, drinking from water fountains and tearing up about $70,000 worth of private landscaping.

Whillock said the donkey population also affects residents' children and pets. Some residents do not let their children play outside because they worry about donkeys that do not run away from people.

One resident's dog was killed by a donkey, while another gave her dog away because it would not stop barking at feral donkeys walking up the street, he said.

Feral donkeys have been coming onto the property for about a year, but more donkeys are arriving in search of food and water because of drought conditions, he said.

“;It's just getting worse and worse. We've had more coming up from dry lands,”; he said. And the population appears ready to grow rapidly. Ranchers told him they have seen a herd of about 60 donkeys with 15 of the females, called jennies, pregnant.

State and county officials have taken the position that the donkeys are on private property, and will not get involved, Whillock said.

Hawaii County Council member Pete Hoffmann, who has come across feral donkeys during his morning runs, said the county put up “;donkey crossing”; signs last year along the road near Waikoloa.

Hoffmann, a Waikoloa resident, said donkeys have been killed while crossing the street and damaged vehicles.

Whillock said the association plans to build a 6,500-foot fence for about $50,000 to keep donkeys at bay. In addition to the fence, the association might install water tanks and salt licks to draw the donkeys away from the golf course.

But the association is also looking to adopt out the animals to reduce their population.

Whillock said temporary corrals will be put up along the new fence to catch donkeys, and the association will pay for their delivery to ranchers.

About 15 ranchers or groups have called him to adopt the animals. They would use them to keep down shoulder-high grass or to protect sheep from wild dogs. He said the animals will be better off in areas other than the desert terrain around Waikoloa.

“;No one is out to do them any harm, but leaving them where they are is no option,”; Whillock said. “;They're going to start multiplying, and they're going to starve to death ... or cause damage.”;