March 23, 2023

Protecting Hulopoe-Manele’s natural, cultural and economic resources

Originally published in the March 2023 issue of Lanai Today. Photos courtesy of Jonathan Sprague.

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By now, many community members have probably noticed a large-scale fence spanning the Hulopoe-Manele coastal area. At the end of 2022, a 3.75-mile-long fence was installed to protect about 940 acres of natural resources, cultural sites and resort grounds from damage caused by deer.

The area is home to more than 2,000 uau kani burrows which are at risk of being trampled by deer. The native uau kani, or wedgetail shearwater, are critical to Lanai’s ecosystem, transporting key nutrients from the sea to plants located along the coast. Without the uau kane, recovering Lanai’s native coastal habitat would be difficult.

Once used for agriculture, lithic workshops, burial sites and koa lawaia, the land around the recreational harbor and mauka of the coastal area holds important cultural significance. Today, these places are being trampled by deer and buried by sediment due to overgrazing.

Deer also damage the landscaping surrounding Four Seasons Resort Lanai and Manele Golf Course which could otherwise be avoided.

“The goal for this area is to fence it in and get the deer out so we can start protecting some of those natural, economic and cultural resources as well start to restore them,” says Jonathan Sprague, co-director of Conservation for Pulama Lanai.

So, how exactly do you get deer to exit a fenced-in area with only two openings each measuring about 16-feet wide? With slow and steady human coordination and plenty of physical exertion.

In February and March, two deer pushes took place where about 45 people lined up evenly spaced in a half mile triangle and walked upslope to direct deer toward a fence opening, which was at the top of the triangle.

“The goal is to go relatively slowly to encourage the animal to move away from the line at a more relaxed pace, so it doesn’t stress the animal out as much and it’s less likely that they’ll cross over your line,” says Sprague.

Sounds simple enough, but the terrain is what poses the biggest challenge. “It’s super gnarly, very uneven,” explains Sprague. “It’s rocky, and that part of the island gets really, really hot and pretty much you’re always working uphill.”

Despite the unfavorable working conditions, the group was able to clear over 100 deer from the area over the two pushes, counted via cameras installed at each fence opening.

After a few more pushes, and later a targeted campaign to whittle down the remaining deer using bows and arrows and crossbows, the fenced-in area should be rid of destructive deer by the end of this year.

While the fence is intended to keep deer out, people still have access to the coastline and highways are not blocked.

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