The mayoral candidates have different views on how to deal with Maui County’s deer axis

WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Axis deer continue to wreak havoc on Maui County’s farmers and ranchers – and two mayoral candidates have different ideas about how to solve the problem.

Retired Judge Richard Bissen took a hard line on the issue Saturday night at a debate in Sebury Hall, saying the solution is uprooting.

“It’s not mitigation, it’s eradication,” Bissen said. “They’re growing faster than we can manage them, and that’s definitely the biggest concern for our watersheds. So when I say eradicate, that’s exactly the word I mean.”

Incumbent President Michael Victorino has said he wants to bring the population down to a manageable number.

A population of around 60,000 has exploded, which has been disastrous for several farmers and ranchers.

Victorino said he would like to see that number reduced to 25,000 deer.

“I don’t like to say eradicate, I say reduce, control the herds so that we have a powerful source of economic engine. Venison can be an important resource,” Victorino said.

Maui hunters agree.

“We can’t eat, the meat is taken away, the food we would have,” said Troy Helmer, president of the Maui Hunters and Sportsmen’s Club. “We make sausages, we make hamburgers … you can put it in anything. So, yes, we use all our meat, and this is a resource that we do not want to throw away or waste.”

Farmers and ranchers say the deer were a nuisance. For many, complete elimination can be a very bold statement. However, they support rooting in some areas.

“As a farmer, they’re just a horrendous nuisance that causes tremendous economic damage,” said Kula Country Farms owner Chauncey Monden. “I don’t think it’s necessary to have deer all over the island … I don’t want them on my farm at all.”

Elections will be held on November 8. Voters can receive their ballots in the mail by the end of the week.

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