Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

Winter 2022 Newsletter

Friends of Hakalau Forest 2022 Endowment Fundraising Campaign!

Ku Kia‘i Manu * Ku Kia‘i La’au * Ku Kia‘i Hakalau

“Stand with the birds, stand with the forest, stand with Hakalau”

Our 2022 Endowment Campaign kicked off in early September with a goal to reach $1 million in donations since the 2015 inception of the fund which is administered by the Hawaii Community Foundation.

Thanks to your generous support and donations during these last three months, we’re thrilled to report that we have reached 90% of our goal as you can see from our thermometer. Our campaign ends on December 31st so we need your help over the next three weeks to raise the balance, $91,738. EVERY donation, big or small, helps.

Mahalo nui loa for recognizing that a stable and robust endowment is essential to provide a reliable source of funds for the foreseeable future to support the many necessary conservation activities and to reduce the threats to survival of our forest birds.

The challenges that Hakalau (and its endangered birds and plants) face are increasing every year, so the faster we can reach our long-term goal of $3.5 million in the Endowment, the sooner we can achieve our intentions to help with the vital management needs of this incredible place. Your gift will ensure our endangered birds have a future for generations to come.

We are so very grateful for your continued support – please help us reach our 2022 GOAL!

Please Donate Here
Click Here for More Details in Our 2022 Endowment Brochure

President's Perch Winter 2022

J.B. Friday

President, Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

In This Issue

Endowment Campaign




Walk for the Wild Mahalo


Holoholo Challenge Mahalo

Research Article

Poetry Book Interview


The big news on Hawai‘i Island right now is, of course, the eruption of Mauna Loa. The lava has closed the Mauna Loa Observatory Road, one of our family’s favorite cycling routes. We did make a point of getting up there for one last ride a couple of weeks ago after we heard about the increased activity on the Mauna Loa. Have you ever meant to do something, not gotten around to it, then lost the opportunity? Did you miss our Walk for the Wild last month? If you haven’t been to the Refuge, we will be hosting four trips for Friends members in 2023. Dates to be announced.

Volunteering to plant trees or cut weeds is one way to help the Refuge. Another is to donate. Right now, we are fundraising for our Endowment, which will become a steady source of funding for the Refuge, especially in emergencies. With a divided Congress starting in 2023, the prospect of more government shutdowns looms.

Nonetheless, someone has to fix the fences and water the plants. Steve Hess’s article in this issue illustrates how quickly pig populations can increase if they are not constantly kept under control. With our Endowment, we are aiming at creating a steady source of funding that will enable us to step in in times of need to protect the ecosystems that have been restored over the past 34 years at Hakalau. Instructions of how to donate are in the article in this newsletter. 


Annual Meeting January 21st at 10am HST including the election of new board members. More information in early January.

Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR Set High Bar Outdistancing 56 Participating “Walk for the Wild” Refuges Nationwide

Far outdistancing 32 “Walk For The Wild” Teams representing 56 Refuges in a Nationwide celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week, Team Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR garnered Twenty Five Percent (25%) of the Nations participants and donations. No other Team garnered more than a quarter of Team Friends of Hakalau’s performance.

None of this would have been possible with out the community-wide support of seventy volunteers, coordinated by retired Refuge Manager Dick Wass, including two dozen Hawaii Forest biologists, coordinated by Jack Jeffrey, retired Refuge biologist, and DOFA’s Bret Mossman.

Special stickers, soon to be collector items, were distributed to the 209 “Walkers” who made it down the 500 foot elevation drop to the turn around point. Odds are that more than 209 persons already claim to have reached this deep into Hakalau’s special Hawaiian Native Forest.

Adding to the support were many Natural History Exhibitors, including the Friends, the Refuge, ROD, Birds Not Mosquitoes, BISC, Teaching Change, UH Hilo’s LOHE lab and DOFA.

Layne Yoshida led the stalwart gate crew and Don Weir chipped in coordinating the parking team. UH Hilo and ROD provided boot cleaning and disinfectant stations.

Cat Spina, Cathy Lowder, Debbie Anderson and Patty Kupchak covered the planning administration and publicity.

Chief of NWS’ Pacific Refuges and Monuments, Ric Lopez , joined, Hakalau Forest’s Refuge Manager, Tom Cady, along the “Walk” available for one-on- one talk story with the hundreds of “Walkers.” And Leah Messer, the Refuge’s Volunteer Coordinator, and Bruce Dempsey, the Refuge’s maintenance head, and Tim Cusack, the NWS’ Pacific Refuges law enforcement officer, played critical roles in planning and operations through out.

Our story was featured in a video shared in a Nationwide Post-Walk virtual celebration.

As the “Walkers” departed, Dick Wass, Don Weir and I stood by the exit to the parking- everyone wore large smiles. Many rolled their windows down and thanked the Friends for a great event. Nary a discouraging word was heard. We could not be happier—plans are a foot for a reprise next Year.

Aloha, Ken Kupchak, “Walk For The Wild” Team Leader

Walk for the Wild Video Celebration

Hawaiian Airline’s 2022 Holoholo Challenge

Raises over $33,300 for Friends

Birds of a feather? Synergies between Hawaiian Airlines and Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR are proving to be mutually beneficial .

Noting that Hawaiian has named its planes after many of the Hawaii’s forest birds and plants, the Friends invited Hawaiian to join us at the Refuge to immerse its employees in the wonders of this unique habitat. Sharing these threatened and endangered species with Hawaiian’s passengers benefits each of us.

As Hawaiian Air’s 2022 Holoholo Challenge featured the Big Island, it designated the Friends as the beneficiary of the over $33,300 in donations of its 6,400 participants, who in turn learned about the Friends' unique relationship with the only place where Hawaii’s native bird population has started to stabilize.

Friends, in turn, hosted Hawaiian’s Community Team in planting Mamane trees at Pua Akala and an opportunity to spot an 'Akiapōlā'au family feeding and experiencing many of the plants and animals after which its planes  are named.

As if foreordained, 'Akiapōlā'au was the name of the plane that that flew the Hawaiian Team back to Oahu. Hawaiian produced a video commemorating their experience (linked below) and has promise to return with the Friends to Hakalau Forest NWR.

Hawaiian Airlines presents the Friends of Hakalau $33,320 raised in 2022 Holoholo Challenge!

Jack Jeffrey introduces Hawaiian Airlines Community Team to The Hawaiian birds and plants after which Hawaiian Airlines

named its planes.

Hawaiian Airline’s Community Team plants Mamane Trees at

Hakalau Forest NWR

with the Friends.

Click Here to View the FOHF and Hawaiian Airlines Volunteer Video

Research News

34 Years of Ungulate Management at

Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge in a Nutshell

Steven C. Hess,

USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center, Hilo, Hawai‘i

Ungulate management has always been a high priority from the start of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Even before the lands had been acquired in 1988, biologists led by Chuck Stone established vegetation plots to begin monitoring the long-term effects of ungulate management on forest regeneration. They also developed the transect-based ungulate monitoring protocols that have been used throughout the history of the refuge. The containment of feral cattle and pigs quickly became one of the largest and most expensive management efforts undertaken at the newly established refuge, including the incremental construction of fenced management units, providing access for public hunting, the transition to staff hunting, the use of dogs to aid staff hunting, and the placement of snares. Refuge biologists collected a great deal of data about several aspects of ungulate management, conducting quarterly surveys of ungulate and weed presence on transects which were first overlayed on the forest bird survey transects, and then expanded to include many other dedicated transects. Biologists recorded nearly all pigs removed from the refuge, and periodically revisited the long-term vegetation plots. We analyzed this trove of data and produced a report in 2006 that detailed the progress of ungulate management throughout the refuge, which yielded insights into the methods and effort necessary to achieve eradication within fenced units, the demographic response of feral pigs, and the long-term response of vegetation.

Fence line with native species inside Hakalau (left) and barren areas outside Hakalau (right).

Feral cattle were eliminated within 4 years of the initiation of management in each unit except for occasional incursions. When the Shipman Unit was fenced in 1991, it was 5,000 acres in size and 757 pigs were removed from the area until it was cleared in 2003. Because intensive age data was recorded from most of the pigs removed, we were able to reconstruct the total number of pigs in the unit in each year prior to complete eradication. This became the key to understanding the effort required to remove all pigs from enclosed units, and the basis for determining the number of pigs in all the other managed units of the refuge. We were able to use ungulate presence data recorded during monitoring surveys and match it to the reconstructed number of pigs in the Shipman Unit over a 16-year period, allowing us to calibrate the ungulate surveys with known abundance. This index of abundance could then be applied to ungulate surveys in all the other management units to estimate the total number of pigs on the refuge.

We estimated that approximately 41–43% of the population could be removed from the 5,000-acre Shipman Unit indefinitely, but that 70% of pigs would have to be removed to reduce the population by half in each successive year. These results agreed with a population model for Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park developed by Reginald Barret of the University of California at Berkeley, but the Hakalau results were based on real empirical data, not just a computer simulation. Of the removal methods we were able to compare, public hunting had the least return per amount of effort. Staff hunting was higher, but not significantly different; however, snaring, where it was monitored carefully had a much higher return per amount of effort than the other methods.

By 2004, approximately 11,000 acres of the refuge was pig-free or nearly so. This represented most of the enclosed and managed units, or about one-third of the entire refuge. There was evidence that management actions were having their desired effects. One of the most striking signals in the data from the long-term vegetation monitoring was the natural regeneration of common native ferns, primarily in the understory over a 16-year period, such as ‘i‘o nui (Dryopteris wallichiana), hohiu (D. glabra), and hapu‘u pulu (Cibotium glaucum), likely related to the rapid removal of cattle.

Feral pig eating hapu'u fern.

The aging fences, however, required continuous monitoring and maintenance from treefalls and wear and tear. Pigs are skilled at finding weak spots along fence lines and enlarging pukas. By 2010, pigs had returned to every management unit. By 2016, more pigs were present in the refuge, and more pigs were being removed from the refuge every year than ever before. Large-scale reforestation on the refuge may have also improved habitat quality, not only for native forest birds, but also for the pigs. 

Questions often arise about the optimum size and configuration of management units. In short, every management unit is unique. Smaller units are easier to clear of pigs but require more up-front investment in perimeter fence construction. Larger units can maximize the area to perimeter ratio but may be more difficult to eliminate pigs from. Island units, that is those that are surrounded by unmanaged lands, will face more challenges from pigs attempting to breach the fences, especially if these units are remote, hard to access, or surrounded by areas with numerous pigs. By creating blocks of connected units, edges can be protected, and units surrounded by other managed units will be the least likely to be breached by pigs. For example, when the large Shipman Unit was subdivided into three smaller units, it made it easier to control pigs within smaller areas while also creating blocks of connected units. Consequently, after the up-front investment in fence construction, smaller units would likely require less time and effort and fewer staff to maintain pig-free.

Control methods also change over time. Traps were not considered effective at the time the Feral Ungulate Management Plan was written in 1996. Trapping was thought to be very labor intensive and ineffective for a relatively solitary animal; however, trapping is now replacing hunting as the primary tool to control pigs. New multiple capture traps can catch large matriarchal pig groups, known as sounders, including their young. Some larger boars may be more solitary and roam over larger areas. Portable box traps can be deployed to remote areas to target specific animals, but they are still problematic in rough terrain and deep gulches.

The novel Pig Brig multiple capture trap, set and baited with sweetened grain at the upper Maulua Unit of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. A pre-baiting period is used with the net raised so that pigs can become accustomed to going under the net to access bait before the trap is set and operational.

A recent effort by the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center tested three types of traps in the Maulua Unit. Although data are still being analyzed, in practice, the use of several types of traps at the same time will probably be necessary because some are better at catching pigs of different sexes and ages. 

The effectiveness of trapping depends on how far away pigs can be drawn to a bait, which is known as the call distance. The quality of bait is important for maximizing this call distance. The properties of an attractive bait include being odoriferous, palatable, and long lasting; it should also be available in quantity, easy to acquire, inexpensive, and easily transportable. Although locally grown papaya and macadamia nuts are available in large quantities and have been frequently used as baits, papaya can be difficult to transport and is short-lived. Macadamia nuts appear to be less attractive than commercial grain such as corn-oats-barley rolled in molasses, known as sweet COB. For example, where COB was poured over macadamia nuts, pigs selectively ate the COB and left the macadamia nuts behind.

Another question frequently asked is: can feral pigs be eradicated from Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge? Given that pigs were previously eradicated from 11,000 acres of the refuge, the technical feasibility of eradication has been demonstrated, as it has in several other similar conservation areas throughout Hawai‘i, some of larger size. However, the prospect of eradication seems to have become more difficult in recent years. At the same time, available control methods have improved, as has the durability of fence materials. However, additional ungulate species are starting to become problematic for the refuge, such as the hybrid mouflon domestic sheep of Maunakea, and infrastructure needs to adapt to these emerging invasive species problems. Consequently, the job is never done. Working towards the goal of eradication is important for the natural regeneration of native plants, reducing the larval habitat of mosquitoes that can transmit avian malaria to endangered forest birds, and to stop the spread of rapid ʻōhiʻa death.

Background Literature

Barrett, R. H., and C. P. Stone. 1983. Hunting as a control method for wild pigs In HawaiiVolcanoes National Park. Unpublished report, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI.

Hess, S. C, J. J. Jeffrey, D. L. Ball, and L. Babich. 2006. Efficacy of feral pig removals at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Transactions of the Western Section of the Wildlife Society 42: 53-67. 

Hess, S. C, J. J. Jeffrey, L. W. Pratt, and D. L. Ball. 2010. Effects of ungulate management on vegetation at Hakalau Forest national wildlife refuge, Hawaii Island. Pacific Conservation Biology 16: 144-150.

Hess, S. C., N. H. Wehr, and C. M. Litton. Wild pigs in the Pacific Islands. Pages 403-421 in K. C. Vercauteren, J. C. Beasley, S. S. Ditchkoff, J. J. Mayer, G. J. Roloff, and B. K. Strickland, editors. Invasive wild pigs in North America: Ecology, impacts, and management. CRC Press: Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, Florida, USA. 

Leopold, C. R., S. C. Hess, S. J. Kendall, and S. W. Judge. 2016. Abundance, distribution, and removals of feral pigs at Big Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex 2010-2015. Hawai‘i Cooperative Studies Unit Technical Report 75, Hilo, HI.

Walker, R. L. 1996. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Feral Ungulate Management Plan. United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. 71 pp.

Birds in Hawai'i Today: Poetry and Prose

Chuck Stone

If you are interested in reading poetry and prose inspired by Native Hawaiian Birds, please check out Birds in Hawai'i Today by Chuck Stone. We had the opportunity to sit down with Chuck and learn more about his inspiration for this wonderful book.

Q. When did you realize you wanted to be an author and what inspired you to start writing?

Writing was part of my education, beginning with term papers and leading to a Master's thesis and PhD dissertation. Various technical and popular publications resulted and were needed for job evaluations. My more creative and popular writing was less job-oriented and began with an article in the magazine Colorado Outdoors about dove hunting; the inspiration was sharing knowledge via accessible environmental outlets with the public; I wanted to try my hand with non-technical/popular writing. Later, I was also inspired to further share with my children my thoughts and feelings about the environment and my work, in poetry and prose.

Q. Who is your target audience for the poetry and prose book, and where can the book be purchased?

The target audience includes all people interested in an in-depth introduction to the native and alien birds in Hawaiʻi today. I hope that the book will be useful for educators and others interested in Hawaiʻi's rapidly changing avifauna and its diversity and beauty, together with the environmental threats, needs and habitat protection required today.  Birds in Hawaiʻi Today can be purchased at Basically Books (Petroglyph Press) in Hilo, HI (, Four Pines Bookstore in Bemidji, MN ( and from the author ( Other venues in the Islands and on the U.S. Mainland are currently being explored and pursued.

Q. What was the most surprising thing you learned while researching/writing this book?

Eight (8) species of endemic Hawaiian birds were removed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife List of Endangered Hawaiian birds in 2021 because of presumed extinction. Several more species are in serious danger of undergoing the same fate in upcoming decades.                                

Q. Do you have a favorite Hawaiian bird (either from the book or in general)?

My favorite Hawaiian bird would have to be the Nēnē (Hawaiian Goose). It is an iconic bird that represents Hawaiʻi as the State Bird and is a good example of cooperative management and research efforts. The current status of the Nēnē is a tribute to the people involved in its recovery. Nēnē are large enough to be visible to most people and abundant enough to be encountered with a little effort. Nēnē can now be found on several of the Hawaiian Islands. Nēnē are distinct terrestrial geese, different in habitat and habits from most other geese. Nēnē were the first avian species I studied on my arrival in Hawaiʻi; I had a small part in producing a management plan and publications about them, together with real experts on the bird (Paul Banko, Ron Walker, Ron Bachman and other State Division of Forestry and Wildlife personnel) and Hawaiʻi Volcanoes and Haleakalā National Park managers (Howard Hoshide, Ron Nagata and others). Additionally, my daughter Beth wrote an (unsolicited) poem (“Nēnē Makua kāne”) about her experiences in following a radio-tagged pair of birds with me in the Kaʻu Desert on the Big Island.

Click here for the full interview


Marcia Stone

Naio is a plant that hides in plain sight. It is everywhere and takes different guises. It can be a shrub or a small tree, erect or prostrate. The shape of its leaves and flowers vary, as do its habitats.  Naio is found from the shore to the mountains, from dry to wet, and on all the islands. It is everywhere, but due to the changing conditions of where it is found naio presents itself just a bit differently so that instant recognition is not obvious. One easy way to spot naio is by looking at the ground. Naio flowers year-round, dropping lots of tiny white to pink flowers. It makes for a lovely sight on the trail.

Recognition also played a part in naio’s history. At the end of the sandalwood trade in Hawaii, when the forests were depleted of the fragrant wood, unscrupulous traders cut naio as a substitute for sandalwood. The wood of naio has a slight scent similar to sandalwood, although it does not last, which led naio to have the common name of false sandalwood. The substitution scheme was found out, luckily for naio, sparing it the fate of our sandalwood forests.

Naio Fruit and Flowers

Another interesting part of naio’s history is how it got here. Naio’s scientific name is Myoporum sandwicense, which makes one think it is endemic to Hawaii. However, it is also found in just one other place. Our young islands share naio with one of the oldest islands in the Pacific, Mangaia, the most southerly of the Cook Islands. How is it that naio is on all our islands, but not on any other island in the South Pacific? 

Inquiring minds want to know.

In 2009 a new insect pest, the naio thrips, was found attacking naio in Waikoloa on Hawai'i Island. Since then the pest has spread across the island and killed thousands of trees in the mauka and dryland forests. Naio growing in wet forests such as Hakalau and in coastal ecosystems aren't immune to attack but seem to be doing better. We need better bio-security in Hawai'i so we don't keep accidentally importing insect pests!

Credit: J.B. Friday

The Friends of Hakalau is a membership organization. Membership dues and donations to the Friends are our only source of funds allowing us to cover our expenses (for example this newsletter) and to make grants.
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Friends of Hakalau Forest, National Wildlife Refuge is a 501 (C)(3) organization and is recognized as a tax exempt non-profit organization by the Federal government and the State of Hawaii. We appreciate and thank you for your membership and your donations.




   J.B. Friday

Vice President

   Debbie Anderson


   Bret Mossman


   Blaire Langston

Members at large

Charlene Akina

Ken Kupchak

Mike Scott  

Rob Shallenberger

Peter Stine

Marcia Stone 

Jaime Tanino

Gaylord Wilcox


Assistant Treasurer

Cathy Lowder

Volunteer Membership Database Managers

Jane Mayo

Suzy Lauer

Newsletter Editor

Alyssa MacDonald

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