Maui man pleads guilty to illegally moving invasive axis deer

 UPDATED 11:39 AM HST Aug 21, 2012
HONOLULU -

A 63-year-old Maui man confessed to transporting axis deer between the islands, which is considered a crime.

Thomas Hauptman, who runs a helicopter business, says he flew three deer from Maui to the Big Island.

"It was to help a friend out, a hunter, " said Hauptman. "We didn't realize there was a law against it. It was only three animals."

Under federal statues it is illegal to transport the animal between the islands. Axis deer are not native to Hawaii. They are considered a highly invasive species, which destroy farm land and crops.    

"It's believed they can cause up to $18 million annually in damage in agriculture and other industry if you use the numbers in Maui." said Earl Campbell from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "There is significant concerns that it will have similar impacts on the Big Island."

Transporting axis deer across the state is a misdemeanor with a punishment of up to a year in prison. As part of a proposed plea deal, Hauptman will the state to use his helicopters towards 500 hours of community service. The judge will decide Hauptman's sentence in September.

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