Wandering cowsHILO >> A judge granted a temporary stay of execution for cattle trespassing on a Big Island state forest reserve.
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The state Department of Land and Natural Resources planned to shoot cattle that had trespassed onto the Piha section of the Hilo Forest Reserve from ranch land next door.
"We were going to actually go in there and shoot them," said Jon Giffin, manager of the Big Island branch of the DLNR's Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
The state had already hired an agency with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do an aerial shooting of the cattle last Friday for $751. The state was planning to provide the helicopter, he said.
Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura granted a temporary injunction on May 3 barring the state from the aerial shooting for 10 days after rancher Alfred Nobriga filed a complaint alleging that killing the cattle would deprive him of his constitutional right to due process before the government takes property.
Nobriga owns about 6,000 cattle on 19 acres of leased land next to the Hilo Forest Reserve.
The state had placed an ad in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald for three days in February warning ranchers that cattle caught on state land could potentially be shot, without compensation. The state then notified Nobriga of its intention to shoot trespassing cattle in writing on May 4, Giffin said.
"I told him that this was coming if we didn't get the cattle out," Giffin said Tuesday. "As far as we know, there are eight animals in the forest reserve."
Nobriga's complaint alleges the newspaper ad was vague because it did not say specifically what would happen to the animals or when.
The trespassing cattle destroy native forest vegetation, including koa trees, and harm the habitat for native birds and other animals, Giffin said.
Deputy Attorney General Edsel Yamada said he agreed to the delay to review documents on the matter.
"We don't feel the state has done anything wrong," he said. "I'm hoping to resolve this without going to court again."
The cows are free to roam until May 25, the date of the next court hearing.