The state Board of Land and Natural Resources will consider today a request to restrict hunting dogs for at least two years in Molokai's Puu Alii Natural Area Reserve and portions of other reserve areas in East and West Maui.
The request from the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Forestry and Wildlife is on the land board's agenda today. The board will meet in its Kalanimoku Building conference room on Oahu.
According to a staff submittal to the board, the department's Natural Area Reserve program used helicopters on more than 40 occasions from 1994 to 2012 to take volunteer hunters and dogs into remote sections of Puu Alii, a 1,330-acre reserve between the Pelekunu and Waikolu valleys on the north coast of Molokai.
The hunting expeditions resulted in the taking of several hundred game mammals. Then, as fences improved over time, "the cost-effectiveness of this program declined, and a transition was made to staff control using snares."
Now, the Molokai reserve is "nearly ungulate (hoofed mammal) free and a dramatic recovery of natural vegetation is evident," the staff report says.
Because staff control measures using snares are in effect in Puu Alii and in portions of Maui's reserves, "it has now become prudent to restrict the use of hunting dogs by the public to prevent accidental harm as a result of control methods used to remove the last ungulates from inside fenced areas," the report says.
Currently, Hawaii administrative rules allow hunters to use dogs in the reserve areas. Puu Alii is within a Molokai public hunting area. Other areas that would be affected by the proposed restriction on hunting dogs would be the 7,500-acre Hanawi reserve in East Maui and the Kahakuloa section of the West Maui reserve, which is on the wet, windward slopes of the West Maui Mountains.
If the restriction is approved by the land board, state forestry and wildlife staff would place signs near entry points and along fences to notify the public of the dog restriction. Hunting without dogs will continue to be allowed.
Closures or restrictions of up to two years are allowed by Hawaii administrative rules, the staff submittal points out.
The Natural Area Reserves System Commission recommended approval of the request to restrict hunting dogs, the report says.
The intention of the Division of Forestry and Wildlife is to "eventually remove these areas from the public hunting area as they will no longer have game animals," the submittal says.
Puu Alii is a wet plateau and an important part of Molokai's watershed, according to a DLNR description of the area. It has 157 species of native plants, 37 of them rare, and 10 native animals, seven of those rare. Feral pigs and goats have been considered the biggest threat to the reserve.
East Maui's Hanawi reserve includes a rare subalpine grassland as well as shrublands and montane wet forests, a valuable watershed area. The area has 135 native plants, 11 rare, and 13 native animals, six of those rare.
The Kahakuloa section of the West Maui reserve includes the plateau of Eke Crater. It also contains the upper reaches of two perennial streams, rare plants, a montane bog and ohia forests and shrublands.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.