(BIVN) – Less than two weeks before game bird hunting season in Hawaiʻi, the Department of Land and Natural Resources released video showcasing a partnership between hunters and researchers.
The DLNR media release, issued October 20, reads:
HUNTERS & RESEARCHERS COLLABORATE TO COUNT GAME BIRDS
New Method Introduced This Week on Maunakea
(Maunakea) – Two weeks before the hunting season for game birds opens in Hawai‘i, hunters, researchers and staff from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) traipsed across the rugged terrain on Maunakea’s north slopes to gain a better understanding of game bird density, variety and populations.
They gather above the Kilohana Hunter Check-in Station at 4:45 each morning to team up, check their equipment, like GPS devices, get their dogs ready to go and to receive their “transects” assignments. Kanalu Sproat, a DOFAW wildlife biologist on the Big Island said, “We’ve done game bird counts in the past by just driving the roads looking for birds. This year with the help of hunters, this is the first time we’ve been able to put people into the field, where the hunting actually happens to get a clearer and better picture of the health of the game bird ecosystem.”
At first light, each team begins traversing the first in their series of assigned transects. Along with a hunting dog, the teams walk straight lines and as the dog’s flush birds out of the tall grass or from underneath thick vegetation, the species of bird, it’s size, it’s sex and GPS location is recorded.
Dr. Randy Larsen is a wildlife biology professor at Brigham Young University in Utah and he volunteered to join the project at Sproat’s invitation. He said from a research stand-point doing game bird surveys in this manner is a good design and will give managers a good sense of populations and health trends over time as surveys are repeated over several years. The plan is to do this twice a year on Maunakea and then to introduce this sampling method in game bird hunting areas across the state. Larsen’s impressions of game bird status on Maunakea included, “It’s a wonderful resource here. Lots of diversity of species. We’ve seen in the last couple of days that Don and I have done surveys everything from turkeys, to Erckel’s francolins, to California quail and there are other species that other teams have seen that we haven’t. Lots of diversity and pretty good densities relative to what I’ve experienced in the western part of the mainland.”
Larsen’s survey teammate is Don Fujimoto from Waikaloa. He’s been bird hunting on Maunakea for the past four years and he calls it a “great resource that DLNR manages.” On their third day navigating the sometimes steep, often rugged terrain Fujimoto observed, “It’s interesting and a little difficult at times because we’re supposed to run straight lines and sometimes the lines run across gullies. You know I don’t like gullies, they can be really dangerous. We’re also in some heavily vegetated areas where we have to get off the line a bit.”
It’s also challenging at times keeping his spirited two-year-old Brittany Spaniel, “Rose” on track.
Fujimoto said for him the bird numbers have been a little bit disappointing, but reiterates what Larsen said, that compared to Utah and other western states, “these are great numbers.” He also explained that for many local families game bird hunting is not just sport but puts food on the table. “The whole wildlife situation here allows for, not pure subsistence living, but there are a lot of people who get their food from the wildlife here,” Fujimoto said.
The next round of game bird surveys on Maunakea will happen after hunting season in February or March of next year. The survey design was created in cooperation with Dr. Javier Cotin and other researchers at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.
Dr. Shaya Honarvar, the Game Program Coordinator for DLNR/DOFAW concluded, “These datasets will help us tell a cohesive story about our game bird populations and how they’re doing. Involving the hunters, who actually use these resources, is a win-win, as they know the birds and the terrain and this gives them a real voice in how these lands are managed for hunting as recreation and for subsistence living.”
The DLNR news release is in contrast to statements made October 24 before the Hawaii County Game Management Advisory Commission. Testifiers told the commission that conditions are becoming too difficult for hunting. They blame the ongoing helicopter hunts targeting the wild sheep herds on Mauna Kea. Without the animals to graze down the vegetation, the grass in the area has become too tall, they say.
The federally-mandated removal of ungulates from critically-endangered palila bird habitat continues this month. The hunting community’s opposition to the eradication effort was a topic of conversation at the Hilo commission meeting.
Here is the DLNR media release announcing the program:
ANIMAL CONTROL ACTIVITIES PROMPT TEMPORARY CLOSURES OF LANDS ON MAUNA KEA
(Hilo) – Later this month, the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) will conduct animal control activities specifically for trapping mouflon/feral sheep hybrids, feral goats, feral sheep, mouflon and mouflon/feral sheep hybrids within in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve (Unit A), Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve (Unit K), Palila Mitigation Lands, and the Kaohe Game Management Area (Unit G) on Hawai‘i island. Aerial shooting is required for compliance with a federal court order mandating the removal of sheep and goats from critical habitat for palila, a bird endemic to Hawai‘i.
Staff hunting and/or aerial shooting from helicopters is scheduled for October 25 and 26, 2018. Public access to Mauna Kea Forest Reserve, Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve, Palila Mitigation Lands, the Kaohe Game Management Area and Mauna Kea Hunter Access Road will be restricted and allowed by permit only for animal salvage purposes on the following dates:
7 a.m. October 25, 2018
6 a.m. October 26, 2018
The Mauna Kea Observatory Road will remain open. The temporary closure is needed to minimize the dangers of incompatible uses in the forest area and safely conduct animal control activities. To implement the closure, both the Hale Pohaku and Kilohana gated entrances to Unit A and G and the gate behind Mauna Kea State Recreation Area will be locked/reopened as follows:
Locked at 7:00 p.m., October 24 and reopens at 7:00 p.m., October 26.
Copies of the map illustrating the area subject to aerial shooting on these dates are available for inspection at the DOFAW office in Kamuela.
Due to high public participation, telephone call-ins to the DOFAW Kamuela Office at (808) 887-6063 for receiving salvage permits will be conducted from 9 a.m. October 17, 2018, to 10 a.m. the day before each shoot day. One permit will be issued per call per vehicle for one day only. Applicants can have their names added to a stand-by list for additional days, should all slots not be filled by other applicants. No one on the stand-by list who waits at the gates will be allowed access.
The driver, occupants, vehicle license plate, and make/model of vehicle are needed when calling in. A maximum of 15 permitted vehicles will be allowed at the Pu‘u Ahumoa location and 15 permitted vehicles at the Pu‘u Mali location.
Carcasses taken during the shoot will be available to the permitted public for salvage at the following locations (4-wheel drive vehicle is required and access permits will be issued). There is no guarantee that animals will be able to be salvaged. Successful permittees will be advised of salvage locations.
For more information on meat salvage and access permits contact one of these DOFAW offices:
Kamuela – (808) 887-6063
Hilo – (808) 974-4221