What animals or Kritters come to mind when you think about Kauai? Whales? Dolphins? Sharks? Albatross? Kauai is home to some extraordinary and beautiful kritters I originally did one post and then realized it was too long so there are 3 separate posts : Kauai Kritters on Land, Kauai Ocean Kritters and Kauai Kritters in the Air. So here goes with Kauai Kritters on Land.
Indigenous to Kauai?
What about those kritters that are indigenous to Kauai? Are there any? Not really on land though definitely in the ocean and in the air. I remember when I moved here how thrilled I was to discover that a/ there are no poisonous snakes (actually no snakes) on Kauai and b/ no other type of dangerous animal of any kind really. Naturally, we are talking about the land, rather than the ocean.
What animals were indigenous to Kauai? Well, most of the ocean creatures, some of the birds and most of the insects. All other animals of the four legged kind were imported to the island over the last 300 years or so including the wild boar, horses, dogs, cats, RATS, yes, rats and anything else you can think of.
Ah, but the birds are wonderful. And there are so many of those. Colorful, beautiful and exotic.
The ancient Hawaiian people and those who still follow the Spiritual ways of their ancestors believe, as all indigenous people do, that animals have power and help us during our time on the Earth. Many have animals as an “Aumakua” . that helps them during their lifetime. For some it may be the Mano, shark or the Honu, turtle, or the Whale.
Kauai Kritters On Land
Let’s start with what the Native Americans call the “4 leggeds”. We have the Wild Boar. You don’t see them strolling around towns and resort areas but if you rent a place on acreage, especially if that place has fruit trees you may hear them at night. And you’ll see the signs in the day. It certainly reminds you that Wild Boar are some of the Kauai Kritters on land.
I believe they were introduced sometime about 200 years ago and the Hawaiian people have since adopted them, as it were, into their eating regime. Kailua Pork has become a standard Hawaiian dish all over the islands and Hawaiians love it. I do not eat meat, but my meat eating friends affirm it’s delicious, mainly because of the way it’s cooked; for hours in the ground wrapped in banana leaves.
If you go hiking, you may encounter Wild Boar. Most of the time they won’t bother you but if one looks a little threatening, just make a lot of noise and it will go away. Hawaiians and other locals hunt them year round and you may see hunters with a truck load of hunting dogs in the back of their truck when driving around the island.
Kailua Pork has now become a traditional dish served at Luaus island wide, so you will have a chance to try it.
Some may not be so aware that we have had Buffalo grazing in Hanalei for years….. although some people may have become aware after the flood of April 2018 when this iconic photo of a Buffalo roaming along Hanalei Bay made it all over social media and beyond.
Here is that photo taken by Ian Nelson of The Garden Island newspaper:
The Buffalo are still on Kauai, though some residents question the wisdom of having built up the wetlands around Hanalei River in order to allow them to graze was or is the best way to preserve both the wetlands and the entire area. Maybe Buffalo don’t really belong on Kauai, but perhaps wild boar don’t either.
This morning, I saw an article in the Star Advertiser that a Kauai long time resident has now fulfilled a dream of bringing Water Buffalo from Arkansas to Kauai. Not sure where they will be grazing, but it seems Kauai’s 4 legged population is growing. Interestingly enough, the resident responsible for bringing in the Water Buffalo is or was one of the main proponents on island dedicated to the eradication of invasive species of plants.
Goats were also introduced on Kauai way back. They are all over the island, especially in the mountains of course. I’m always amazed at their abilility to climb precarious almost sheer mountain landscapes. Sometimes you can be sitting on the beach at Polihale, Kalalau or other beaches and hear them calling. Again, they are hunted by locals. But some locals love to just cuddle them.
Small Deer were introduced in Koke’e some time back. This is the only place you will see them, high up enough and a cooler climate.
Dogs & Cats have proliferated with the arrival of Westerners and there are packs of wild dogs in some parts of the interior who come down at night to some areas on Kauai. Of course we also have a lot of Horses on Kauai. The Hawaiian people adopted horses back in the 19th century and the “cowboys” were called “Paniolo’s”… there’s even a condo complex in Princeville that is so named, most likely because the Princeville Ranch employed many of them for years from the early 30s on. Today there are two big Horse Stables on the North Shore and one in the South. But many individuals, including some Hawaiian locals still keeps horses as well as mules. Finally Rats I’m afraid came along with Western boats that also brought mosquitoes. Oh dear. Yes they are around so just be aware.
Cane Spiders & Garden Spiders
So to the insects. We have the common Hawaiian Garden Spider, the Cane Spider (which can be very big but is harmless enough and it does not weave a web, by the way) and various other spiders. I once watched a Hawaiian Garden Spider weave its entire web in about an hour. It was absolutely fascinating.
We have the beautiful (at least I think so ) . Geckos everywhere. Some tourists have thought the poop of this little guy was a sign of rats or mice.. because Gecko poop is small and black but no, it’s just geckos! The Hawaiians believe that when you hear the “clackclackclack” of the Gecko, whatever you just said or were thinking… that is truth, it’s a good sign. I love them. For me they are just the pre-eminent Kauai Kritters on land!
The Chameleons mostly stay outside but they do venture in too at times. Beautifully green out on the leaves, they really do turn brown on wood. The first year we were on island, my daughter who was 9 at the time, picked up a beautiful green chameleon from a leaf out in the tropical bushes. It bit her finger. She howled of course and it wouldn’t let go. I had to put quite some pressure on it before it yielded. But it was fine. It was just giving her a warning… don’t pick me up! She never did it again and never forgot the experience either!
There are some frogs too: another import. Mostly bullfrogs who can sound ridiculously loud at night but some other varieties too. Finally we have the famous – or infamous Centipede.
Kauai has lots of those and yes, they are a bit poisonous and yes it hurst when they bite. However, not all people react strongly to them and you are not going to die from a centipede bite. In fact, those who follow the traditional Hawaiian ways say that when the centipede bites, pay attention, there is some wisdom to be found.
I recall a friend of mine, a hula sister was talking at hula practice one day about her knee, which had been giving her a lot of pain. Then a couple of days previously, a centipede had bitten her on the knee. Whilst most of the women commiserated with her, our Kumu Hula (Hula teacher & Wise Woman) said “and how has your knee been since then?” and my friend said with a rush of realization “better, much better!”. Our Kumu smiled.
The Kauai Chickens
So the Kauai Chickens almost deserve a post by themselves. Some people say they are Kauai’s official “Island Bird” rather than the Nene. They are everywhere, all over the island. Some people even have stickers which read . “I stop or slow down for chickens”. I certainly do. They appear to be so stupid that they stand on the side of the road and wait until your car is almost opposite them at which point they dive madly into the road and run squawking to the other side. So I slow down, way down… and wait for them to cross. They are just the most obvious Kauai Kritters on land.
So why so many chickens all over the place? Well the main story goes that during Iniki, chickens that had been in cages were released into the wild and then … there you go. The same story says that this is also why their “clock” is so messed and they crow at all times of the day and night instead of just at dawn. (don’t they know the rules?) . I have read many a review by visitors who enthused about a particular rental or resort and then wrote something along the lines of “it was all terrific if it hadn’t been for the chickens crowing in the middle of the night!”
So there you go. Be prepared. But you know, they are also cute!
I’m sure there are other land kritters that I have missed, but those are the main ones. Welcome to Kauai!