August 22, 2012
Hawaii Mystery Solved: Pilot Illegally Flew Axis Deer from Maui to Big Island
Here's one from the "Only in Hawaii" files. A helicopter pilot has pleaded guilty to illegally flying non-native axis deer and mouflon sheep from Maui (where they occur) to the Big Island (where they don't) so they could be hunted.
From this story on the Huffington Post:
A helicopter pilot is pleading guilty to illegally flying deer from Maui to the Big Island, shedding light on a mystery that has been bewildering Hawaii: how did axis deer, an animal that can't swim across the ocean, get to another island? But now federal authorities say the people behind the scheme also took several mouflon sheep from the Big Island and flew them to Maui. Neither axis deer nor mouflon sheep are native to Hawaii and don't have natural predators here.
Their presence has damaged fragile native ecosystems and farms on the islands where they've become established. The alleged animal smugglers took the sheep to a Maui hunting ranch, and apparently didn't release them to the wild. Even so, the sheep's arrival on Maui for the first time deeply concerns conservationists who fear the animals could escape or give others the idea to bring over more.
According to the story, the ranch owner is also scheduled to appear in court this. He's charged with one misdemeanor count of selling wildlife – axis deer and mouflon sheep – without the proper permit. He also faces up to one year in prison.