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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Feral pig control expansion urged

 •  Legislature 2008
Read up on the latest happenings in the Legislature, find out how to contact your lawmakers, and explore other resources.

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

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HUNTING PROGRAM ONGOING

Hunting for feral pigs in mauka sections of the Ala Wai Watershed is ongoing, as part of a program that started in February 2007. Hunters can use dogs, knives or archery. Each hunter needs a three-month permit.

Hunting is allowed on Wednesdays and Sundays only.

For more information, go to www.hawaii.gov/dlnr.

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Some lawmakers and environmentalists are calling on the state to explore more aggressive tactics to control the feral pig population in urban Honolulu.

A resolution before the Legislature asks the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to look at expanding game management and public hunting areas, extending the hunting season, and providing more incentives to hunters.

But DLNR officials say they are already pursuing new solutions to the problem. And they point to an ongoing hunting program in Manoa, Makiki and Tantalus which has snagged 53 feral pigs since it started in February 2007 as an example of what's being done to make sure the population decreases.

The program was supposed to wrap up in a year but was recently extended because of community support. Hunters can hunt pigs with dogs, bows and arrows, and knives. They are required to seek permits every three months.

DLNR had previously instituted two special hunts in the area, which operated in three-month-on, three-month-off cycles. In 2002, 15 pigs were caught in urban Honolulu, and 22 were taken during the 2004-2005 program.

Jason Misaki, DLNR O'ahu district wildlife program manager, said the current hunting program will continue "as long as they (residents) want it." He said the program ran into snags early on when hunters got into confrontations with hikers and others. But that has tapered off, as fewer hunters participated.

Now, about five regular hunters are part of the program.

There is a low number of hunters, he said, because there is no longer a lot of interest in hunting the area. "The excitement wore off a little bit," Misaki said.

Feral pigs are a destructive force to Hawai'i's forest ecosystems, and in recent years the invasive species has ballooned in numbers, especially in urban Honolulu mountainous areas, including Manoa, Tantalus and Makiki.

Residents and others have been pushing the state to look at the issue closer.

But Laura H. Thielen, state DLNR chairwoman, told a Senate committee yesterday that a resolution, SCR 16, asking the state to do more to study other options to address the feral pig population in urban Honolulu, would be repetitive and take the department away from getting things done.

The resolution duplicates "actions that are already in progress," she said.

Thielen also said the department just recently wrapped up a look at the population of feral pigs statewide. The November 2006 report, requested by the Legislature, also made several suggestions for handling the problem.

The new resolution was held, pending further discussion.

State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, whose district includes Nu'uanu, introduced the measure. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

Several environmental groups submitted testimony in favor of the measure, seeing it as a way to come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with feral pigs.

"The entire game management paradigm needs to be changed," Marjorie Ziegler, of the Conservation Council of Hawai'i, said in testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Water and Land.

"The DLNR should begin managing game animals in a responsible manner by beginning to fence pigs and other invasive game mammals in appropriate game management areas."

George Massengale, of the Audubon Society, said the measure should have also addressed how to incorporate conservation in a plan to get rid of feral pigs.

"Feral pigs are one of the most destructive animals in the state," he said. "They continue to be a serious threat to our native bird habitats and our native rainforest. Feral pigs are a major factor in rainforest degradation."

Reach Mary Vorsino at mvorsino@honoluluadvertiser.com.