Field Report: September

Logged seal sightings:
September: 222
August: 230
July: 414
June: 356
May: 263

Pup Update:

Photo credit: M. Miyashiro.

On September 21, some fishermen contacted DOCARE (Hawaii state Dept. of Conservation and Resources Enforcement), because a loose dog had attacked a small monk seal at Moloa`a Beach. An officer immediately responded, found the dog’s owner, and issued a citation. Our Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui team found the seal, one of this year’s weaners, with multiple puncture wounds. The following day RH92 was given antibiotics and, thankfully, resights of her show the small punctures did not become infected and have healed.

Vaccinating Seals:
Since June, Hawaiian monk seal coordinators have been vaccinating Kauai seals against morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. Our goal was to vaccinate 20 seals on Kauai, focusing only on males and juveniles. Studies have not been conducted on possible side-effects the vaccine may have on a developing fetus, so sexually mature females were excluded. We were successful, with the valuable aid of many volunteers assisting to find seals, to fully vaccinate 19 seals! The program is now on hold as the vaccines have expired and the manufacturer is not currently producing more. We are in discussion with the company and hope to continue vaccination efforts in the near future.

On Oahu, two seals were hooked this month. On Rabbit Island a yearling seal was sedated to remove an external hook from its mouth. The other seal, a large adult male had ingested a hook, so he was captured, and the hook was surgically removed. He is recovering well in captive care. Amazingly, this is the 2nd time this male seal has had a hook surgically removed from his stomach!

In Other Marine Mammals News:

9_28_16_Stranded_FKW_Julie Steelman.0431.JPG

Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hawai`i Island : In September, a large male false killer whale (FKW) was found live stranded on the south end of the Big Island. This endangered Hawaiian insular FKW died shortly afterwards and the Hawaii team lead by Tom Elliot organized to pull this very large heavy whale out of the surf and onto the beach to collect the carcass for necropsy.

Oahu: On September 17, a lone melon-headed whale calf was found swimming in Kailua Bay, Oahu. The calf, approximately 5 1/2 feet long, was likely still associated with its mother and from visual assessment showed signs of malnutrition. After careful consideration of all factors related to the case at hand and previous cases, it was determined that any rescue intervention would not be successful. To read the full story click here.

Turtles, Turtles, Turtles:

Poipu turtles.jpg

Photo credit: NOAA

This summer there has been an increase in the numbers of green sea turtles coming to rest on Kauai’s beaches. Visitors and volunteers have reported seeing up to 12 turtles on the Poipu beach, resting at night and departing at dawn. Many of these sea turtles also feed on the seaweed “limu” on the shallow rocks and may come ashore to bask on the beaches during the day. While sea turtles are not our primary concern, we do want to prevent these threatened turtles from being disturbed and to help the life guards to instruct visitors to give turtles respectful space to rest and forage.

Monk Seal Recovery News:
The Toxoplasmosis and At-large Cat Technical Working Group met October 7 to review technical findings on the impacts of toxoplasmosis on wildlife and methods to disseminate accurate information to the public. To learn more about toxoplasmosis, please read this article from Honolulu Magazine and this one from Smithsonian.com.



Field Report: July and August

Logged seal sightings:
August: 230
July: 414
June: 356
May: 263

R8HY Hooked on Oahu and Dehooked on Kauai

R8HY, Gary Langley.png

Photo credit: G. Langley.

On July 15th, R8HY was sighted swimming around Oahu with a large ulua circle hook, Searches were started for the adult male seal, and he was found resting at Moloa’a bay, Kauai on July 18th! Fourteen feet of heavy monofilament line was trailing from the seal and loosely wrapped around his rear flippers. After receiving authorization, most of the trailing line was cut, leaving 1 foot still attached to the hook. Unfortunately, the hook’s tip was not visible, and it was determined veterinary assistance was needed to remove it. On the morning of July 19th, R8HY hauled up at North Larsens beach where a team was able to successfully remove the hook.


RK28 Sighted with Mobbing Wounds

RK28, Cynthia Sterling.png

Photo credit: C. Sterling.

On August 7th, the public reported a wounded seal on the rocks along the coast at Princeville. Volunteer found an adult seal resting on the rocks with a fairly fresh large superficial wound of the skin and blubber layer. The seal had bite and scratch wounds along her back consistent with mating wounds. No intervention at the time was indicated because the wounds were healing well. On August 12th, RK28 was re-sighted at North Larsen’s beach. The wound was healing well, with the skin closing over pink granulation tissue. Three days later, she was seen again at Anini, and the wounds were shrinking and closing well, showing how quickly and remarkably well seals can heal on their own.

Another Hooked Seal


Photo credit: G. Langley.

On August 12th, a volunteer walking the coastline on Kauai’s North Shore spotted a swimming seal with a hook sticking out of its cheek. Then, on August 23rd, it’s believed the same seal hauled out on the South Shore, and a team was able to remove the hook and flipper tag her (R7GM) at the same time. 



Pup Update


Photo credit: G. Langley.

All three pups are weaned, flipper tagged, bleach marked and doing well. To recap: 

  • RK22’s pup was flipper tagged H91/H92 and bleach marked V92.
  • R028’s pup was flipper tagged H80/H81 and bleach marked V80.
  • RK30’s pup was flipper tagged RH38.


RH80,Gary Langley 2.png

RH80 with bleach mark V80 for easy identification in the field. Photo credit: G. Langley.

Vaccination Update
Since June, the Kauai team has been vaccinating Kauai seals against Morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. As of now, 19 of 20 seals were booster vaccinated.

(P)update #42

RH92 (formerly known as PK2) has been busy. She now has a bleach mark of V92 that will make identifying her from a distance much easier. She’s also beginning to travel up and down the coast, going several miles one direction and equally far in the other direction. This makes her much harder for our volunteers to find! She’s been observed flipping rocks and checking things out just like a wild seal should. She’s also been observed with sea cucumber slime on her face. Not something that likely will continue as she discovers more deletable tidbits from the sea!


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley

(P)update #41

It’s been a little over two weeks since RH92 was tagged. She has been busy exploring up and down the coastline near where she was born, and she’s been making a few friends, too–there’s Temp325, RN44, RN30, 3CU, RK05, RV18 and even recently de-hooked RF28 sporting a tracking device on his back. We have not witnessed her eat any sea cucumbers, as many weaners inevitably do, but she has tried seaweed. Basically, she’s just being a wild monk seal and doing a good job of it, at that.

Here are a few photos of her escapades.


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley

(P)update #40

And now PK2 is officially RH92.

On Thursday, July 7, our second weaner of the year “graduated.” That is, a pair of plastic “temple” tags were attached to her hind flippers. The color of the tag indicates where the animal was born. The first letter indicates the year it was born. So, in this case, all three pups born on Kauai this year will receive red tags with the first character being “H.” Red for all Main Hawaiian Island pups. And “H” for 2016. The two numbers that follow the letter are unique for each individual animal.

At the same time that RH92 was flipper tagged, she was vaccinated against morbillivirus, measurements of length and axillary girth were taken, a tissue sample collected, and a micro-chip pit tag (much like the kind used with dogs and cats) was inserted. And all that gets done in about five minutes. She reacted calmly throughout the entire effort. So much so that when the team finished, she rested for about 15 or 20 minutes before heading to the water for a three-hour swim.

With RH92’s weaning and tagging, we will now reduce our (P)updates to periodic reports.


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley


Photo credit: G. Langley

Field Report: June

Updates for our Kauai seals and pups.

RK30 weaned her pup, PK1. This pup most likely nursed 49 to 50 days, making this a very big pup. On Monday, June 27th, she was tagged and vaccinated and is now, officially, RH38, (tags H38/ H39).

Milolii pup (ScubaTomPhotography)2


RK22 weaned her pup, PK2, on Sunday, July 2, after 41 days of nursing.


PK2 (Photo credit: G. Langley)

RO28 arrived from Oahu and pupped, PK3 on June 15. Both are doing well.

RO28 and PK3-3-2

PK3’s first recorded nursing bout with RO28.

Vaccinating seals on Kauai.

The Kauai coordinators are in the process of vaccinating Kauai seals against Morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. So far, 13 Kauai seals have received their initial vaccination and some their second booster shot. We are now earnestly looking to booster several male seals, and volunteers can assist us by looking out for RF28 ( red tags, and transmitter on his back, on the north and east sides of Kauai), and N1AA (black tags on the south and west sides of the island). Also, RN30, R8HY subadult males found primarily on the east side often Ahukini cove.
Here is a video of how seals are vaccinated. We will put out a list as time goes on, to identify which seals we are looking for to booster in the 3-5 week window and would truly appreciate assistance in looking for them.

RF28 and RF30 released and doing well.

On May 27, RF28, a juvenile male seal, was found with an ingested hook that was successfully removed on Oahu by a veterinary team. He was soon released back on Kauai with a transmitter on June 2.


RF28 (Photo credit: M. Miyashiro)

RF28 locations

Dive data RF28

A week later, we were surprised to find another internally hooked seal, RF30, a juvenile female! She was located at the Poipu county beach park keiki pool where she was logging and acting strangely. A team was assembled for a water capture using fence panels and crowding boards. This challenging capture was successful due to our many fine volunteers that rallied on a very short notice. Without volunteers to find and assist with capturing these injured seals, none of these successes would be possible! We supremely need and appreciate all our volunteers! RF30 was also transported to Oahu by a US Coast Guard C-130. She was found to have some swelling in the throat where the hook was lodged and at the base of the tongue. It was successfully removed using an endoscope and specially designed tools. Four days later RF30 was flown back to Kauai and released on the east side of the island where she normally resides. Both seals are fitted with satellite tags that are solar powered.

RF30 release (MaryFrances)2

RF30 (Photo credit: M. Miyashiro)

RF30 locations

Dive data RF30

Tag (LloydMiyashiro)

Photo credit: L. Miyashiro

Other marine species:
News from NOAA Fisheries Sea turtle program. If you see a honu or ‘ea on the beach or in the water, please remember:

  • View sea turtles from a distance of 10 feet (3 meters). In Hawai‘i, we view turtles respect- fully. Give turtles space and don’t feed, chase, or touch them.
    Hawaiian honu bask on the beach. This is normal behavior. Don’t try to
    push them back into the water.
  • “It’s OK to help!” Fishermen, check your gear often, use barbless circle hooks and adhere to state gillnet rules. If safe for both you and the turtle, release accidentally caught turtles by fol- lowing these steps:
  1. REEL-IN the turtle carefully
  2. HOLD by its shell or flippers
  3. CUT LINE as close to the hook as possible, and
  4. RELEASE with no (or as little) gear or line attached.
  • “No white light at night.” Use wildlife friendly lighting near the coast (yellow/amber and shielded lights). Don’t use flash photography, and keep lights and beach fires to a minimum from May to December, when turtles are nesting hatchlings are emerging.
  • Avoid beach driving. Off-road vehicles crush nests, create tire ruts that trap hatchlings, and degrade habitats. Driving on the beach is also illegal in most areas.
    Prevent debris and rubbish from entering the ocean. Participate in beach and reef cleanup activities.
  • Report all hawksbill sea turtle sightings, any nesting activity (turtle tracks or nest digging), and injured or dead turtles to NOAA’s Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline on Kaua‘i: (808) 274-3344.
  • Report illegal or suspicious activity that may result in turtle injury or death by calling the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at
    (808) 587-0077 or 643-DLNR.



(P)update #39

Day two of weaner life and PK2 is finding trash. She didn’t eat this piece of plastic–it looks like a broken bit from a hagfish/eel trap–and our volunteer slipped in and removed it while she was napping. But this gives us an opportunity to request that you not only pack out your own trash when you go to the beach but perhaps collect and carry out other trash, as well. You could be saving a monk seal’s life.

PK2 spent much of the day sleeping with only one observed swim. 

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

We’ve got other news: PK3 is a girl. That makes three female pups born on Kauai this year. Since it takes more females than males to contribute to the species’ overall population, this is good news.

Photo credit: V. Bloy