Up on the mountain



May 14, 2013.  For several years the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has been challenged by court order to eradicate the mouflon sheep on the Island of Hawaii.  The presence of the sheep on the Island of Hawaii originated in the days when wildlife and natural resources management were just starting to be recognized as strange bedfellows.   On one hand, DLNR is an agency tasked with enhancing game animals for hunters.  On the other hand, they also have the responsibility for protecting native flora and fauna.   To make matters more challenging, much of our native flora and fauna is rare, unique, fragile and threatened with extinction.   Consequently, as resources managers, DLNR now finds itself with its back to the wall because the reproduction rate of the introduced sheep is high and the sheep have a voracious appetite for native plants and shrubs. 


For example, because the sheep eat practically everything in their path, the introduction of sheep in Hawaii has placed undue stress on the mamane trees that are essential to the welfare of the rare and endangered Palila (psittirostra bailleui) bird.  The stress has become visible in the large decline in the palila's population, because the sheep are literally eating the palila out of house and home.   It would be unforgivable of me if I failed to mention that the palila is so rare it is only found on the island of Hawaii.
Now that I have preached from my "radical environmental perch", I want to share with you one of those rare moments that lends itself to asking the billion dollar question, what in heck are they thinking?  You see, back in June of 2012 I witnessed and confirmed that mouflon sheep have now been introduced here on the Island of Oahu.  the confirmation occurred when I responded to a telephone tip that at least two large sheep were stranded on a ledge overlooking the highway above Makapu'u Point.  The sheep were trapped on the ledge because they had wandered down and became tangled in wire mesh, installed to prevent rocks from falling onto the road below.     At the time I was calling around DLNR, trying to get a warm-bodied, responsible person to own up to the fact that yes, someone in their infinite wisdom had introduced mouflon sheep to the Island of Oahu.   DLNR responded, but were very sheepish as they tried to play it down because they knew they were up to their neck in legal hot water on the Island of Hawaii.  Understandably, DLNR did not want another suit.
A few local news stations did a story about the sheep being trapped.  Reportedly,  the sheep freed themselves and scampered back up the mountain to eat, mate and reproduce, while the DLNR sweated bullets, hoping that I, or no one else, would fan the flames and broadcast, or even mention the "M " word again.    The DLNR'S formal statement was muddled as they promised to survey the "goat " population and promised to eradicate them in six months.
Moving forward at government pace and sure footedness, on April 18, 2013, at approximately 9:00 AM, nine to ten DLNR employees, assisted by  "water shed partner group members" assembled at the Oceanic Institute near Makapu'u and shot approximately  eleven adult and juvenile mouflon sheep.    Beachgoers who witnessed the killing of the sheep were incensed and vehemently objected to the killing.  To add insult to injury, one of the dead sheep was given to an individual who took the carcass to the beach and butchered it on a the picnic table.
Again, I received the old trusted and tried telephone tip advising me of DLNR'S actions.  I traveled to the area near Oceanic Institute and, from there, called the DLNR to get more information.  I was then the recipient of the "go away and mind your b's" response.  I tried to get them to let me take pictures of the sheep they had killed, but was told they had distributed them to the DLNR employees and watershed partners to eat.  They would not disclose the names of the parties involved or their contact information. 
Following are statements made by DLNR:
l     Location:   state land leased by Oceanic Institute,  right of entry permit issued to Koolau Mountains Watershed Partnership for KMWP and DOFAW shooters to remove sheep and goats that have been increasing in number in the area. About a dozen sheep were removed on April 15, 2013.
l       Purpose of control hunt:    this is a first of its kind hunt to remove animals from the Makapuu cliffs who are causing erosion and rockfall hazards. Vehicles in the parking lot have been struck by rocks dislodged by animals on the cliffs above.
l       While the animal control hunt was going on, some people gathered outside the parking lot gate. DOCARE explained what was happening. One individual asked for a meat salvage opportunity and was given a carcass. He proceeded to place it on a table at Makapuu beach park (Baby Makapuu) and butcher it in public view. As a result, this will no longer be done.
l       The rest of the animals were taken by DOFAW and distributed to volunteers involved in our animal control program..
l        Years ago there were only a few, but now there are dozens of sheep and goats.
l        This is not a public hunting area.
l       Is DLNR investigating origin of the animals?  Yes, but the present focus is on removal of animals via control hunts with cooperation of area lessees and landowners.
l       Is another control hunt necessary? Yes, to remove remaining animals. No date has been set.

Like the Mouflon on the Island of Hawaii, the introduction of the mouflon sheep to Oahu presents a threat to the remaining native flora and fauna.  The DLNR must be more transparent about the presence of the Mouflon and not butt heads with the public or employ sheepish stances on matters such as this.   Adopting an attitude that public participation and the right to know is important will go a long way in giving the public the impression that DLNR is no longer pulling the wool over their eyes!
If you have any information about who brought the sheep to Oahu, or if you see other sheep, please contact DLNR or send an email to