Kahului airport aims to keep overcrowded deer away from runways | News, Sports, Jobs

Kahului airport gates and runways are busy with passenger jets on Wednesday. After a single deer wandered onto the trail and impeded traffic earlier this month, the state installed an additional vinyl fence above the existing wood fence, one of many countywide attempts. to hold back overcrowded axis deer that damaged crops, caused traffic accidents. and triggered a state emergency proclamation. The Maui News/MATTHEW THAYER photo

A single deer earlier this month managed to obstruct traffic on the Kahului Airport runway, prompting the construction of additional fencing around the perimeter and reinforcing the need to tackle the deer problem of axis in Maui County.

To prevent potential wild ungulates from causing flight disruptions or safety hazards, Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz said by phone Tuesday that additional vinyl fencing had been installed to straddle the existing wooden fence delimiting the property from the airport.

There was a gap of about 3.5 feet between each wooden slat on the existing fence – originally installed about 15 years ago. Wood is used instead of metal because it does not interfere with shipping lanes.

“We felt it was enough and still think it’s enough, but we didn’t know how the deer made their way through that fence,” he said. “As a precaution, we decided to add extra fences and prevent them from sneaking around.”

The vinyl layer will even keep a “little kitten” to pass now, Moniz said.

Vinyl fencing was installed about two weeks ago over the existing wooden fences to keep out axis deer, which have sometimes been spotted in herds of up to 700 around the perimeter of the fence, an airport official said. MARVIN MONIZ picture

Between materials and labor, the State Department of Transportation’s estimated $100,000 project was installed about two weeks ago and appears to be effective in protecting Kahului Airport property from overcrowded axis deer herds.

Brush growing along the fence was also cut back to avoid encouraging axis deer to approach the area while foraging, Moniz said.

“With the extra fencing and increased wildlife service patrols, we believe this has been a cure for now,” said Moniz. “We’ve seen a reduction in deer numbers now due to the recent rains we’ve had, things are greener now so I think they’re coming up the hill.”

Airport staff suspect the only deer that wandered the active runway earlier this month entered due to a service door being left open, but there were no such incidents. Moniz said.

Weather conditions and unforeseen delays in shipments of “critical attenuation materials” had blocked state efforts to manage the axis deer population, so Governor David Ige last week issued an extension to a proclamation declaring that the emergency disaster relief period will last until March 7.

“Axis deer threaten the safety, health and well-being of our residents and visitors to Maui,” Ige said in a press release last week. “I am extending the disaster declaration to allow the state and county to deal with the axis deer problem as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Some of the materials that were delayed included FAA-approved fencing materials, which were needed to “secure the perimeter of the airport to prevent axis deer from encroaching on airport property”, Jodi Leong, spokeswoman for Ige, told The Maui News last week.

“The Axis Deer Task Force is grateful for the emergency proclamation as it will allow ranchers, farmers and landowners affected by the overpopulation of Axis deer to mitigate and expedite the protection of their crops and of their herds, said Yuki Lei Sugimura, a member of the Maui County Council, which holds the seat of residence in the backcountry and last year announced the formation of the task force, which aims to manage and control the problem of deer of the axis by finding resources and funding.

Although not directly involved in the mitigation project at the airport, the task force continues to communicate with local, state, and federal authorities as well as representatives of the Maui County Farm Bureau, ranchers, veterinarians and hunters, among others.

“We are also working to bring back the foliage that deer have ruined our ecosystem that sends brown water to our delicate reefs,” Sugimura said in an email to The Maui News. “We’ve seen it in recent Kona low storms.”

Tens of thousands of axis deer roam Maui alone, including a few herds seeking water and greenery around Kahului Airport, areas of Kanaha Beach Park, and Keopuolani Regional Park.

At one point, up to 700 axis deer were spotted around the perimeter of the airport fence, Moniz said, but that number has since been reduced to around 300 as they move further south. north in search of greener pastures and water.

Herds of axis deer have previously trampled the trees and brush surrounding Molokai airport, according to the state Department of Lands and Natural Resources.

About 111,000 acres of Maui Nui are already fenced off, but many fences were built decades ago to keep pigs and goats out and are only about four feet high, low enough for deer of the axis can jump over them, according to a press release published last week by the DLNR division. forests and wildlife.

Still, officials said fencing is one of “the most efficient” ways to keep axis deer out of native forests, which is why DLNR and partners are upgrading existing fences to 8ft high to discourage deer from jumping over them.

At Kahului Airport, the same concept applies, as wildlife services continue to conduct perimeter checks and airfield inspections.

“So far, so good,” said Moniz. “I think the cutting of the grass, the extra fencing, the increased support from wildlife services – it all helped.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]

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