Park seeks volunteers
to hunt feral sheep

The goal is to protect Hawaii's
native plants in the volcano area

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is looking for volunteers to help rid the park's new 116,000 acres of thousands of feral sheep.

The National Park Service recently acquired the Big Island property from Kahuku Ranch, and with it came thousands of sheep that already inhabit the land.

The mouflon sheep, native to Corsica and Sardinia in the Mediterranean, were brought to the ranch for hunting in the 1960s. With no natural predators, their population has multiplied over the years.

"Their grazing inhibits the regeneration of Hawaii's endemic plants, which are defenseless against sheep, goats and other chompers and stompers," the park service said in a news release.

It's illegal to hunt in a national park. However, removing the feral sheep by hunting is allowed because it involves removing invasive species, park spokesman Jim Gale said. The National Park Service is required by law to control alien species on park land that interfere with native species or habitats, he said.

The park service anticipates a high turnout for the sheep removal and will conduct a public lottery Nov. 8 to select participants, officials said. The deadline to register is Oct. 25. The project will continue indefinitely and lotteries will be held every six months, officials said.

There will be no limit on the number of sheep taken, and volunteers will be encouraged to keep the meat, the park service said.

In May and June, 28 volunteers removed 232 feral sheep and two feral pigs.

"The initial sheep control project was a huge success," said Ben Kawakami, the project coordinator.

The park will also work on removing alien plant species, which are another byproduct of the sheep grazing, Gale said.



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