WAIMEA — The big question is: How does Kauai want to manage its invasive rodent population in forests and conservation areas?
Monday and Tuesday evenings, members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife held preliminary scoping meetings in Waimea and Lihue to find out the answer.
The long-term plan is to develop a handbook for land management agencies with a list of best-practice tools for eliminating rodents and mongooses.
The meetings weren’t formal and there was no need for scheduled opportunities to testify on the idea, because it’s not yet fully formed. These meetings were in open forums where subject matter experts conversed with community members.
“The community is always saying bring the information to us first and bring it to us early, so that’s what this is,” said Trishia Kehaulani Watson-Sproat, cultural impact assessment coordinator with University of Hawaii. “It’s bringing the information directly to the community.”
Christy Martin, public information officer for UH’s coordinating group on alien pest species, explained USFWS and Hawaii’s DLNR work together to protect native species. Rodents and mongooses threaten those species, so the two entitles are taking them on.
“We, living down here in the urban areas, just don’t think about how many there are up there, but it’s really quite alarming, even on Kauai,” Martin said.
She explained that rodents eat almost anything, but they really go for anything that’s “slow and tasty enough to eat.”
“They’re really opportunivores,” Martin said. “They’ll eat almost anything, but they’re eating eggs and chicks; going after the tender shoots of plants, seeds, flowers and tree snails. They love tree snails.”
While there isn’t a resident mongoose population on Kauai, according to Patrick Chee, small mammal control planner with the division of forestry and wildlife, there are a lot of rats.
Chee said rodents usually stow away on pleasure craft and boats, or make it to the island through shipping of some sort.
“More than likely, that’s how the first rodent got here, it stowed away. But there’s other thoughts that it was something that was brought to eat,” Chee explained. “It’s not a preferred food, but they probably wanted to keep the chickens and pigs for when they got to Hawaii.”
At Monday and Tuesday’s meetings, DLNR and USFWS were airing out integrated pest management methods and ways to minimize the issues that might arise from their use.
Chee explained those methods are the same that are used in the urban areas — mostly kill traps, live traps, and bait stations — but they’ll have to be tweaked to fit the needs of the land manager.
“It’s not site specific and it’s not for any one particular refuge in the state, or on Kauai,” said USFWS invasive species biologist Domingo Cravalho. “This provides a basis, or foundation, and when an individual land manager wants to do a project, he has something he can utilize.”
The entities are keeping the public comment period on their proposed ideas for managing mongoose and rodent populations in forests and conservation areas open until April 7.
Once comments have been received, they’ll be sorted and read and then a draft programmatic environmental impact statement will be prepared. That process could to take up to two years, according to USFWS.