Axis deer on Maui could be turned into new industryUPDATED 11:38 AM HST Nov 29, 2013Video Transcript
They are such a problem.... They're estimated to have done about a MILLION dollars in damage -- on Maui alone. Not fires. Not crashes... We're talking DEER. But as KITV4's Lara Yamada shows us ... Maui County's deadly solution to very pricey nuisance ... could be on the verge of creating a whole new industry. In the 1800s, Axis deer were introduced to the islands as a GIFT from China -- to King Kamehameha the 5th. But in recent years, growing communities and hunting restrictions have turned that GIFT into a NIGHTMARE. Now... there is a budding movement to turn that PROBLEM... into PROFIT. NATS: There's one! Their eyes glinting in the green light... A drive around Wailea on Maui reveals its stealth residents temporarily shrouded by Kiawe trees. Pretty to look at... but: 3941-44 It's an epidemic. It really is. But come out they will: NATS: Maui Deer Herd One tourist caught an entire herd crossing the road in broad daylight. Cars and deer don't mix. Check out the damage. Wailea resort recorded 19 collisions last year. This one dying on the road. Another dying in a park. NATS: Deer in water And this one: dashing through a hotel lobby -- out to sea. Swimmers escorting him to shore -- before he passed out on the beach. 5509 There's an open field we hunt right above. Mike Tavarres heads up the Maui Axis Deer Harvesting Co-Op. All-volunteer hunters, who know well the damage done by Axis Deer. 5723-25 Right there is the start of the cabbage and that's their favorite part. This cabbage field... nibbled and contaminated. 5559-05 If they're walking through munching on the edges they're urinating and, and that's it. The crops gone? The crops gone. And not just cabbage: cane fields, grape vines, pineapple crops ... Deer busting through walls and destroying golf courses. 10216-30 You can see why they're trying to protect this area, because there are valuable crops all around here, but every night, hundreds and hundreds of deer are coming in and damaging these crops. But you take a look around there are also houses in every direction, making safety a challenge. 3820-26 We're trying to bridge the gap between hunting and landowners again. That means strict hunting rules and promising zero waste: 1701 NATS: If you notice, each one of them is different. Hunting partner and budding jewelery-maker Dale Littlefield says he and his wife about to start marketing their wares, all handmade.. 525-27 This right here is the tip of the horns... ...all made out of Axis Deer. 1018-25 When you do something like that, and you take an animal like that, you want to try and use every bit of it. 3252 NATS: Maui style is to have 5 braids, 5 strands... And Gretchen Cardoso makes saddles, chaps and scarf slides -- in an effort to waste not. 2945-49 I think it would be a more positive thing to look at a problem as a potential resource. Including... on the dinner table. 1817 NATS: I smoke it and process the meat myself. 10412 -OR- 423 NATS: Stirring sizzling pan NATS: 1852 I mean it goes like wild fire. NATS: 21257 Sizzle. Two Ban-Mies! We caught up with Chef Kyle Kawakami at his Streatery Food Truck in Kahului. Creating masterpieces and promising to add deer meat to his menu. 20904-09 I'm super excited to start working with it. I'm hoping it gets into the market soon. NATS: People tend to stay steer away from venison... The next day at Kumu Farms -- he shows us a twist on a Hawaii favorite -- this time -- using Axis Deer meat: 3010-16 The purpose of the event was to get people in the room beginning to talk about whether or not this industry makes sense. And there's movement outside the kitchen too: In October, UH Maui College's Phyllis Robinson and the Kohala Center rounded up hunters, ranchers, and experts for the first ever Deer Symposium -- to find common ground on population control and the potential venison industry. There's also a new course next year, to train ranchers on making management plans. 3753-55 I think there is a feeling that we do have to do something about it. 5049-55 I've heard from a lot of upcountry residents who say all our freezers are full already, and yet we're still seeing so many deer. The County's Axis Deer Working Group is trying to get a grip on the problem: --Within a month, they plan to have a more accurate count of deer in Maui County. Right now, numbers range from 10,000 to 60,000. --They're creating different management plans for different sectors: near hotels, near houses, or on ranches. --And in the next few months, there'll be mail-out surveys and public sessions -- asking the public what THEY want. 5932-39 We really cannot let this go any longer, without addressing it with everything we have. A community committed. To a problem... that's not going away. 1357-07 We're all here to try and help the county of Maui. That's what we're here for. We all want to see it work. Lara Yamada KITV4 News. This industry is SO NEW... it's only been a couple of months since the first local venison from Molokai has been USDA Approved -- and accepted in island restaurants. Prima in Kailua, Tango, and Salt have offered a few selections. And wholesalers say, several other restaurants are having taste-tests with customers. In addition: The Maui Axis Deer Harvesting Co-Op has started its OWN pilot project -- and if successful -- could launch the VALLEY ISLE's first wholesale market.