With over 1 million acres of Big Island wilderness surveyed, officials with the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) have confirmed that axis deer are no longer present on the island.
Illegally introduced to the landscape in 2009, the invasive and non-native deer have wreaked havoc on the landscape, causing millions of dollars in annual damage to crops and natural habitat. In addition to the destruction, the deer are also known on the island as an agent spreading bovine tuberculosis and believed to have caused a number of outbreaks across the state.
It was one trail camera image that triggered an interagency response back in 2012 when representatives from the state Department of Land & Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish, and Wildlife Service, USGS, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Three Mountain Alliance Watershed Partnership and The Nature Conservancy formed the coalition.
After the initial removal of four axis deer from the introduction site, BIISC and the interagency team continued to track down the remaining ungulates. Having combed through almost 7,000 hours of game camera footage spread across 5,200 acres of high-risk territory, there is no sign of the deer.
“We were really grateful to the community for their efforts in reporting possible deer sightings,” Brett Gelinas, a wildlife biologist with BIISC told Big Island Now. “It demonstrated that people were aware of the threats the deer pose and they were very invested in making sure axis deer didn’t get out of control on the Big Island.”
While for the time being, many believe the invasion has come to a close. That said, officials from within the interagency team are committed to remaining vigilant, keeping a watchful eye for potential future illegal introductions.