Wild cows are apparently really bad for native plants on the Big Island.

So bad, in fact, that the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands needs help culling about 1,000 head of feral cattle in the northeastern foothills of Mauna Kea to repopulate native forestry.

Department heads opined on the sorry state of the wild bovines to state senators Wednesday morning. DHHL says the feral cattle contribute to Rapid Ohia Death, a fungal infection in Hawaii’s most abundant native tree, and the spread of gorse, a thick, thorny bush that snuffs out the life of plants trying to grow around it.

DHHL is selecting a contractor over the next several months to hunt down the cattle. The wild cows currently number about 1,300 in Piihonua and 450 in Humuula. And their populations could grow by 34% each year they’re left unchecked, according to the department.

The contractor would be tasked with killing about 740 in Piihonua and 260 in Humuula.

DHHL manages about 13,000 acres of land in Humuua and another 17,000 in Piihonua. The department says it wants to begin reforesting the area and may use portions of it for commercial timber or homesteading in the future.

And the culled cows won’t just be disposed of — the contractor needs to be able to turn them into meat for Big Island residents.

Beef a la feral, anyone?

A note to our readers

While asking for your support is something we don’t like to do, the simple fact is that our reporters, our journalism, and our impact rely on it. Since lifting our paywall and becoming a nonprofit in mid-2016, our local newsroom has benefitted from a stream of charitable support from people who want our type of journalism to survive. People like you who understand that our work is essential to a better-informed community. If you value the work of our journalists, show us with your tax-deductible support.

About the Author