Rancher posts reward for bison killers

HANALEI — A ranch owner is posting a $25,000 reward for the conviction of livestock killers he suspects are stealing the animals for their meat.

Bill Mawry, 88, has operated Hanalei Garden Farms as a bison ranch for the past 25 years. He learned Tuesday morning that livestock are being poached on his property.

The proof came with the gunshots that Mawry heard on Monday night, he said. He went out early Tuesday morning and discovered the remains of a bison.

“They (the poachers) built a blind so they would be protected when they shot them,” he added. “It happens at night when no one can see them.”

At least five head are missing from the herd of approximately 75 bison. Mawry said it is difficult to know just how many were killed because they are spread out over 130 acres on the south end of his 245-acre ranch.

An assistant with the ranch stated that the poachers are shooting young bison that are about a year old. They are still small enough to drag off with ropes or all-terrain vehicles to boats on the river bank.

The only remains are blood and pressed grass and animal parts after being slaughtered on neighboring lands. Sometimes there are ropes and broken fences, according to the assistant, adding that it puts the public in danger from other bison that could run loose.

This isn’t the first time that Mawry’s bison have been targeted, according to a ranch assistant. Mawry filed a complaint in 2010 after discovering broken fences and bison remains, estimating the loss of nearly 20 head.

The culprits were not caught and the incidents seem to stop once the story hit the newspapers, according to the assistant. It all started again this January.

This time, Mawry said he is prepared. He is photographing any evidence of poaching for police. The assistant said there are also potential witnesses to at least one incident.

The reward depends on the eventual conviction of anyone involved with killing the animals and stealing or selling the meat.

“A $25,000 reward ought to be enough to get people looking at who is killing the bison,” Mawry said.

North American bison flourish on Kaua‘i, with its plentiful green grasses all year-round. The meat is lower in fat and cholesterol than cattle beef, and Mawry said bison meat retails for $25 to $40 a pound.

Bison do not tend to breed until they are 2 or 3 years old, the assistant said. Taking the young animals is hurting efforts to keep the herd population stable or growing.

“We start again from scratch,” the assistant said. “We only had 15 babies last year, and one of them didn’t make it.

Mawry had a cattle ranch on the Mainland before he moved to Kaua‘i about 28 years ago. Three years later he started the bison ranch in Hanalei, and has since been featured in National Geographic.

The original bison calves were bought at a Colorado auction, and the herd grew to over 350 at one point, he said. He sold many of them.

Randall Cremer, a foreman at the nearby Jurassic Kahili Ranch in Kilauea, said his ranch hasn’t had any recent issues with poachers.

Kyle Schumacher, president of the Kaua‘i Cattleman’s Association, also manages the Halaulani Ranch. He said the today’s ranches were once open plantation lands or cane fields and were hunting areas for generations.

Some people still hunt on them, and a calf will get mistaken in the brush as a wild pig.

“It is more of a problem for ranchers now,” Schumacher said. “They are finding dead animals, including cattle, in the pasture, and we don’t really know if it was a hunting accident, or a personal issue, or somebody trying to rustle their cows.”

People with information about the bison killings should call Mawry at 826-9208.

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