A federal judge is sentencing a Maui helicopter pilot to a year of probation and 500 hours of community service for illegally flying deer to the Big Island.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang said Thursday Thomas Hauptman will perform community service by providing a Big Island group that fights invasive species with 500 hours of helicopter flight time.
That works out to about $500,000 out of Hauptman's pockets since he has to pay for his own fuel and maintenance. He has to complete the 500 hours within a year.
Hauptman last month pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegally transporting wildlife. Prosecutors say he flew four axis deer to the Big Island in 2009 as part of an alleged scheme by hunters to establish a deer population there.
Hauptman called the sentence "fair." He said in the 1970s, he helped to remove the mouflon wild sheep from Mauna Kea.
Axis deer were introduced to Maui in the 1950s. Conservationists worry they could harm Big Island forests, farms and ranches if they become established there.