Deer Smugglers Reprimanded

Helicopter pilot Thomas Leroy Hauptman pleaded guilty to illegally transporting axis deer from Maui to the Big Island, on Monday. He could be sentenced to over $10,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.

The alleged animal smugglers flew four axis deer from Maui to the Big Island to be used by hunters as living targets, and brought back about a dozen mouflon sheep from the Big Island to a Maui hunting ranch back in 2009.

The owner of the ranch, Jeffrey Scott Grundhauser, is also facing possible jail time for selling wildlife without the proper permit.

Because axis deer and mouflon sheep are not native species to Hawaii, their presence has damaged fragile native ecosystems and farms on the islands where they’ve become established. Many conservationists are worried that the introduction of these species may cause detrimental damage for their island.

“Some of our most endangered dry forest community on Maui would definitely be negatively impacted if sheep got established on Maui,” said Chuck Chimera, a botanist involved in efforts to fight invasive species on Maui.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has offered up to a $2,500 reward for callers who report wildlife crimes like the illegal transport of wild animals. Earlier this year, they partnered with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to set up a confidential, toll-free tipline.

“The DLNR will vigorously investigate and prosecute anyone attempting to illegally transport and release deer between the islands in the future,” said DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila. “[We] ha[ve] the responsibility to do what we can to prevent the introduction of deer to the Big Island and avoid the damage that would occur to our agriculture, watersheds, and public safety.”

Anyone with information on illegal animal transport or release is asked to call 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 861-8525.