As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday 15 April 2013

Aerial hunting of feral sheep, goats to resume

Updated 6:33 pm, Wednesday, April 10, 2013
HILO, Hawaii (AP) — State workers or contractors eradicating feral sheep and goats in an effort to protect an endangered bird found only in certain parts of Mauna Kea can't be prosecuted under a county ordinance banning aerial hunting, a federal court ruled earlier this week.

A 2012 Hawaii County ordinance passed with strong community support to ban hunting from helicopters or airplanes. It came about because of concerns that eradicating animals by aerial shooting conflicts with cultural and traditional values and creates safety risks, among other things.

But the order from the U.S. District Court in Honolulu on Monday said it's had a "chilling effect" on the state's ability to comply with a 1998 order to eradicate the invasive animals that ravage the forest where the native birds live.

The Hawaiian honeycreeper's population has declined 66 percent in the past decade, with fewer than 2,200 left, according to environmental groups who hail the recent order as crucial to the bird's survival.

Environmental law firm Earthjustice, representing conservation groups, went to court after it found out earlier this year that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources suspended the aerial hunts.

"We reached a court-ordered agreement with DLNR in 1998 that a minimum of two aerial hunts per year were needed if we were to have any chance of removing sheep and goats from Mauna Kea," said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. "DLNR should not have suspended those hunts without talking to us and the court first. That decision really set back efforts to save the palila, but hopefully we can get back on track."

The next hunt is planned for April 22 to 25, department Chairman William Aila said.

"The recent federal court order prevents the county from prosecuting state employees and private contractors who are used to implement the eradication efforts required by the 1998 stipulated order," he said Wednesday. "Aerial shooting is just one of the many methods used by DLNR to remove sheep, goats, and mouflon from the palila critical habitat, as required by prior federal court orders."

He noted that while the department also rounds up and captures the animals from land, they are sometimes in inaccessible areas.

Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida said the ruling is specific to the 1998 order.

"The court did not invalidate the entire ordinance," he told West Hawaii Today, noting that other aerial hunting will remain illegal.

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