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Monitoring eradication of European mouflon sheep from the Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

October 25, 2017

European mouflon (Ovis gmelini musimon), the world's smallest wild sheep, have proliferated and degraded fragile native ecosystems in the Hawaiian Islands through browsing, bark stripping, and trampling, including native forests within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (HAVO). HAVO resource managers initiated ungulate control efforts in the 469 km2 Kahuku Unit after it was acquired in 2003. We tracked control effort and used aerial surveys in a 64.7 km2 area from 2004 to 2017 and more intensive ground surveys and camera-trap monitoring to detect the last remaining animals within a 25.9 km2 subunit after it was enclosed by fence in 2012. Aerial shooting yielded the most removals per unit effort (3.2 animals/ hour), resulting in 261 animals. However, ground-based methods yielded 4,607 removals overall, 3,038 of which resulted from assistance of volunteers. Ground shooting with dogs, intensive aerial shooting, ground sweeps, and forward-looking infrared (FLIR)-assisted shooting were necessary to find and remove the last remaining mouflon. The Judas technique, baiting, and trapping were not successful in attracting or detecting small numbers of remaining individuals. Effort expended to remove each mouflon increased nearly 15-fold during the last 3 yr of eradication effort from 2013 to 2016. Complementary active and passive monitoring techniques allowed us to track the effectiveness of control effort and reveal locations of small groups to staff. The effort and variety of methods required to eradicate mouflon from an enclosed unit of moderate size illustrates the difficulty of scaling up to entire populations of wild ungulates from unenclosed areas.

Publication Year 2017
Title Monitoring eradication of European mouflon sheep from the Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
DOI 10.2984/71.4.3
Authors Seth Judge, Steven C. Hess, Jonathan K. Faford, Dexter Pacheco, Christina Leopold
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Pacific Science
Index ID 70191785
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center