By ERIN MILLER
A North Kona man says he heard hunters firing at animals on Hualalai’s upper slopes last week, but a Kamehameha Schools spokesman says the organization wasn’t doing any aerial hunting.
Frank Oda Monday said he was at his home near Palani Ranch Feb. 18 when he heard a helicopter, followed by the sound of a gun firing. The sounds repeated themselves Friday, Oda said. A friend made a few phone calls, and learned the helicopters were flying farther up Hualalai than Hualalai Ranch, over Kamehameha Schools and Bishop Estate land, Oda said.
“I guess the Honolulu people gave them the OK,” Oda said, referring to Kamehameha Schools officials who he believes signed off on the flights, which he said took hunters up to shoot feral cattle on the Kamehameha Schools land. “They’re letting the animals go to rot. I don’t think it’s right.”
The helicopters were only delivering hunters to the area and helping keep track of goats, Kamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen said.
“We’re in the process of restoring much of the native habitat,” Paulsen said, adding that ungulate control is a large part of that work. “Goats are particularly destructive.”
The hunting transpired near Parrot Crater, he added.
Paulsen said the organization hadn’t received any requests from area residents who were interested in the goat meat, although hunters have, in the past, brought out sheep and beef. If people did want access to the goat carcasses, Paulsen said Kamehameha Schools would be willing to pass that request along to the hunters.
Federal and state laws prohibit hunting from airplanes or helicopters, unless the hunters have permits, which are typically reserved for government entities, Humane Society of the United States Hawaii State Director Inga Gibson said. State law makes aerial hunting a misdemeanor.
The permits are “not readily available” to individuals, Gibson said.
The Humane Society’s main concern, she added, is the potential for nonmortal wounds, which leave the animals injured and possibly suffering for days or weeks from infections, blood loss or starvation.
Gibson said a Department of Land and Natural Resources official told her Monday he was not aware of Kamehameha Schools’ decision to use helicopters to deliver hunters to the land.
Attempts to reach Division of Forestry and Wildlife Administrator Roger Imoto Monday were unsuccessful. A spokeswoman for DLNR said Imoto was out of the office. DLNR officials did not offer additional information about the situation. Oda said the department did send investigators to the area to look into the reports.
Oda said he saw the helicopters hovering near the radio tower on Hualalai, and said the sounds were similar to when state officials conducted aerial hunts in the area in previous years.
Those aerial hunts have been controversial, with some Hawaii County residents and officials speaking out against the practice.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.