Ever since a contract to control feral pigs at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe was allowed to expire last year, hogs have been running wild along the 400-acre parcel. The pigs have caused severe damage and raised fears of a dangerous encounter with humans.
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Now, the city and the Pig Hunters Association of Oahu may be close to reaching an agreement that would allow members to cull the feral pig population at Hoomaluhia to more manageable numbers. Interim Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Nekota expects to draft a memorandum of agreement with the hunting group in about two weeks. She highlighted the MOA Tuesday during an informational briefing before the City Council's Parks and Customer Services Committee.
"So once we finish the MOA, then we'll go ahead and give them a call," said Nekota.
From October 2007 to Sept. 30, 2013, the city gave the United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Branch $357,546 to try and bring the pig population at Hoomaluhia under control. Under the agreement, 232 feral pigs were trapped and killed in addition to other nuisance animals like peacocks and feral chickens.
"I was kind of surprised to find out that we spent that much money, and if you break it down per head or per pig to $1,400 or $1,500 per head, it is an exorbitant amount," said City Councilman Joey Manahan, chairman of the committee.
For Oahu Taxpayers, an even more disturbing fact is that licensed hunters were willing to remove pigs from Hoomaluhia for zero cost.
"I think it's a waste of money," said Ollie Lunasco, president of the Pig Hunters Association of Oahu. "If you need it done, just call us -- we do it free."
The association says all of its hunters are licensed and about 15 of them are willing to use traps at Hoomaluhia. That means no guns or snares.
"Personally, I use just box traps and pen traps and we take out the animals live," said Mitchell Tynanes, one of two vice presidents with the hunting club. "It has to be regulated (and) you need to control the population or Ollie will get a lot more calls from around the area."
Lunasco told members of the committee traps at Hoomaluhia would be placed away from public view and checked every morning. He said all pigs captured by the club are consumed, relocated or given away.
City spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke told KITV4 Mayor Kirk Caldwell supports the idea of allowing pig hunters into the botanical garden, but logistics need to be worked out.
Lunasco said a majority of his members carry liability insurance, but a waiver from the city would be an added layer of protection.
"We have that with Bishop Estate," he said.