Damage to farms, ranches, resorts in last two years at least $1 million


A draft management plan to control the axis deer on Maui is scheduled to be put together by the Maui Axis Deer Working Group by July. It will then be presented to the council for review. Tentative plans also call for presenting the report to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Yamamura said axis deer have been a problem in the islands for decades, but no one keeps exact records of the extent of their damage.

And, he noted, not everyone has a problem with axis deer, for now.

"It's only a matter of time. That's the scary part. It will impact every nook and cranny," he said.

People have reported axis deer munching on crops, chewing away at pineapple in the fields, eating grapes off of vines and even appearing in hotel lobbies in Wailea and running around on golf courses.

According to survey results, Maui farmers reported that axis deer have caused $306,000 in crop damages in 2011 and 2012. Farmers reported spending $257,000 on mitigation measures, mostly putting up fencing, Yamamura said.

But he added that it is difficult for all farmers to put up fences to keep the deer out because a lot of them lease the property, unlike farm owners who can put up a fence and keep it as an improvement for life.

Yamamura said the estimated numbers are "grossly understated" because the survey did not capture a large portion of farmers.

Five ranches on Maui reported $496,000 in deer damage in 2011 and 2012. Ranchers reported mitigation measures, mostly fencing, costing $610,000.

In addition to the axis deer issue, ranchers are dealing with a severe, ongoing drought, which has at least one ranch selling its cattle, Yamamura said.

As for resorts on Maui and Lanai, which sometimes see herds of deer running across their golf courses, they estimated damage at $183,000 over the last two years. And $81,000 was spent for mitigation measures.

DLNR officials said the axis deer population on Lanai is being managed through the Division of Forestry and Wildlife's recreational hunting program in the cooperative game management area on lands leased from the Lanai Co. The department also is working to install a fence to protect forest watersheds on the island.

By: MELISSA TANJI staff writer, The Maui News