August 24, 2012
The HSUS Encourages Hawaii Residents to Report Wildlife Crimes Following Recent Deer Smuggling Case
In the wake of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s ongoing investigation into the illegal deer smuggling on to the Big Island and transport of Mouflon Sheep to Maui – both to provide living targets for hunters – The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust urge Hawaii residents to report wildlife crimes, including illegal wild animal transport or abandonment. Callers may be eligible for a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for these crimes.
In January, The HSUS set up a confidential, toll-free tipline for the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement, 1-855-DLNR-TIP, to report information on wildlife crimes. In June, Gov. Abercrombie enacted Senate Bill 3001; Act 144, sponsored by Sen. Gil Kahele and supported by The HSUS, DLNR and others, to explicitly prohibit the possession, transport or release of wild deer.
As a result of continued federal and state efforts to stop wildlife crimes in Hawaii, two individuals were recently brought to justice. A pilot who illegally transported wild animals and the owner of the Maui-based Arrow One hunting ranch, who received the animals, pleaded guilty earlier this week to misdemeanor violations of the federal Lacey Act – which prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold. The ranch owner also pleaded guilty to guiding a hunter without a state hunting license.
“We commend the Pacific Region of USFWS for their efforts to bring animal smugglers to justice,” said Inga Gibson, Hawaii state director for The HSUS. “Abandoning wild animals in our fragile environment or illegally transporting wild animals for unauthorized release for sport-hunting operations is irresponsible and we encourage Hawaii residents to report these crimes.”
DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. said, "We’re very pleased that our federal partners in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and U.S. Attorney's Office were able to successfully investigate and prosecute the illegal transport of axis deer to the Big Island dating back to 2009 and hold those parties accountable for their previous irresponsible acts.”
Aila continued, “With the passage of Act 144, the State now has stronger laws and stiffer penalties to prohibit this type of unauthorized activity. The Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute anyone attempting to illegally transport and release deer between the islands in the future. The Department has the responsibility to do what we can to prevent the introduction of deer to the Big Island and avoid the damage that would occur to our agriculture, watersheds, and public safety."
- Under the new state law, first time violators face a misdemeanor charge with a mandatory fine of not less than $10,000 and payment of any costs incurred in the eradication of any deer and the deer's progeny who has been possessed, transferred, transported, or released after transport, or by imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.
- Under the federal Lacey Act, violators can face either a misdemeanor charge with up to 1 year in jail and a $100,0000 fine or a felony charge with a maximum fine of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years, or both, and civil penalties of up to $10,000.
Anyone with information on illegal animal transport or release is asked to call the
HSUS/DLNR reward tipline at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or the USFWS Enforcement hotline at 1-808-861-8525. Residents on the Big Island are asked to report deer sightings to 808-443-4036.
For more information on The HSUS/DLNR reward tipline visit www.humanesociety.org/hawaii_rewards.
Humane Society of the United States: Kaitlin Sanderson, 301-721-6463; email@example.com
Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources: Deborah Ward, 808-587-0320; Deborah.L.Ward@hawaii.gov