Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 223 seal sightings this month. This included 31 individually identified seals.

November: 223
October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284

Updates:

  • PK6 was born at a remote beach along Napali Coast in September to R400. He was flipper-tagged on Nov 11. The male pup was large and healthy and now has a permanent ID of RL40.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola and released in July, continues to thrive. Her tracking tag remains attached, however the battery has died so no further data is being transmitted.
  • All of the 6 pups born this year have been sighted recently and continue to thrive.
  • Displacements: Adult male RF28 was displaced from the keiki pool beach. That was his first displacement from the keiki pool.
  • Molting: Adult male RN02 spent 3 weeks at the busy Poipu Beach in pre-molt, molt, and post-molt which required extensive volunteer coverage. One other seal molted this month in less busy areas.
  • Vaccinations: Initial morbillivirus vaccine given to new juvenile seal R1NI.
  • Bleach marking: none this month.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center:

  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.
  • Logged all seal sightings for PIFSC database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

Some seals go about seal life quietly, silently slipping out of the sea and galumphing up the beach at such remote sites that few humans ever lay eyes on them.

Then, there’s RN02. He tends to haul out at beaches heavily populated with humans, and when he does, he announces his arrival. Loudly. It’s like he’s charging down a football field and providing his own play-by-play at the same time. No color commentator or sportscaster necessary.

In November, RN02’s behavior was no different when it came time for his annual molt. He chose a busy south shore beach, and he made sure everyone knew he was there—barking at humans, other seals, and even turtles who got too close.

Hawaiian monk seals spend about two-thirds of their life in water. They spend so much time in water that algae often grows on their fur. About once a year, Hawaiian monk seals undergo a “catastrophic molt” in which they shed the top layer of their skin and fur. They can go from looking green and dirty too sleek and shiny in about a week to 10 days, rarely leaving the beach to forage. Basically, they set up camp.

RN02 arrived on October 28th, looking dirty and chomping on what might have been his last major meal for a few weeks—an octopus.

The first week he spent on the beach, he showed signs of illness—sneezy, running eyes, diarrhea. Diarrhea that was, by the way, red in color, likely the result of some crustaceans or other yummy fish he’d recently eaten. Maybe the octopus. But he also showed signs of “pre-molt” behavior.

Then, on November 7th, volunteers confirmed RN02 was, indeed, beginning to molt.

RN02 first started making a splash in 2013 on Hawaii Island where he was born. There are few Hawaiian monk seals found on Hawaii Island. As we witness on Kauai, after weaning, many young seals tend to hang out together, tumbling along the shoreline and interacting in a manner we humans might consider as rough. For RN02, there were no other young seals around Hawaii Island after his mother weaned him.

So, it wasn’t long before RN02 was repeatedly reported to be roughhousing in the water with humans—and it wasn’t appreciated by the humans. It was dangerous. Before he could injure seriously someone, RN02 was translocated to Niihau.

Within a couple years, RN02 turned up on Kauai and has turned into a regular south shore seal. At first, he was people curious, pursuing swimmers and following people up the beach. He hauled out on a boat ramp, undeterred by the steams of snorkelers and divers walking past him to enter and exit the water.

On several occasions, RN02 was intentionally displaced (by trained staff) when he was found hauled out in disconcerting locations like this and others.

Once, he was sighted with marine debris entangled around his neck. However, he was able to escape its trap on his own.

In February 2017, RN02 was reported to have blood near his mouth. That turned out to be a small fish hook with about six inches of monofilament fishing line along his gum. Eventually, the hook and line fell out on its own.

Eventually, RN02’s interest in humans abated. Now, he runs with a few other adolescent males, sometimes causing the same ruckus in near-shore waters that he generated on Hawaii Island. Only this time, he’s rough-housing with other mammals more closely related to him.

RN02 completed his molt on November 14th. Throughout, his antics can be summed up by this one report from one volunteer: “Still cranky and vocalizing a lot at folks who are not remotely close to him—all over the beach, up to bushes, down to the water with sideways in between for some variety.”

RN02 now has his shiny new coat; however, that’s not stopped notorious ways. On November 29th, he was hauled out and sleeping when an umbrella got away from a beachgoer, blowing down the beach and hitting RN02. He didn’t like that too much. He flushed for the water and hauled out elsewhere.

There’s no doubt RN02 will continue to generate stories—and we hope for a good, long time to come.

Here are some photos of one of the more interesting monk seal molts of 2019.

Pre-molt Thompkins

Pre-Molt. PC: Thomton.

Molt 1109 honnert

November 9th. PC: Honnert.

1110 Meggannoll

November 10th. PC: Megonnell.

1111 honnert

November 11th. PC: Honnert.

1112 Honnert

November 12th. PC: Honnert.

1112 Honnert 2

November 12th. PC: Honnert.

1113-2 meggonnell

November 13th. PC: Megonnell.

1113 Megonnell

November 13th. PC: Megonnell.

In today’s local newspaper, you may have read about an international seal study that has implications right here in Hawaii.

The Garden Island reported the story about a long-term research study in Scotland. NOAA’s research ecologist Stacie Robinson told Jessica Else of The Garden Island, “Some of the lines of thinking (in the St. Andrews research) are applicable to Hawaiian monk seals,” Robinson said. “We’re doing something that’s logically similar, but we’re using the patterns of our citizen science reports to get the information.”

Robinson’s study is due out soon, and it likely includes information provided by Kauai’s own dedicated crew of citizen scientists, as well as, the general public and concerned visitors who call the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Hui’s hotline to report seal sightings. According to Robinson, all this helps scientists working in the recovery of Hawaiian monk seals by providing critical information about “vital rates,” things like reproductive, body condition, and survival rates.

Today, the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Hotline rang with one such report. The caller also provided distant cell phone photos that allowed DLNR’s Mimi Olry to identify the seal–even without the observation of a the seal’s rear flipper tag. (Ironically, this seal only has one rear flipper tag, because when she was flipper-tagged in 2015 when she was an estimated three years of age, the procedure was interrupted by an incoming wave.)

The key to the seal’s ID was that the caller texted full-length body shots–front and back–as well as a head-on and tail-first photographs. All were taken, of course, from a respectful distance. Too, the caller provided location photos to make it easier for our volunteer to find the seal.

This particular seal has some significant natural identifiers–a cookie cutter shark scar on her back, a scar across her chest from a suspected shark bite, and a missing digit on her left fore flipper.

Do you know who she is?

What’s more, the photos indicated she just might be pregnant. Here are two of the photos.

Resized_20191125_143207Resized_20191125_143151

As is general protocol, a trained volunteered was dispatched to follow up and perform the usual health check to ensure there were no entanglements wrapped around the seal or fishing line projecting from the seal’s mouth. Our volunteer’s report confirmed that this seal was R1KY.

DSCN0419

PC: K. Bove

DSCN0416

PC: K. Bove

 

 

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 258 seal sightings this month. This included 36 individually identified seals.

October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284

New:

  • A new juvenile male seal was flipper tagged on the South Shore by the Kauai team. The seal’s ID is R1NI.
  • Very pregnant AF R8HE spent two weeks on a North Shore beach. This seal is usually on Maui and Hawaii Island, and pupped on Maui in 2018. She has moved back to Oahu since. Her predicted pupping date was Nov 9.
  • The annual monk seal count day occurred on Oct 19th. Kauai had the most seals with 20 seals reported before noon. Three more seals hauled out later the day for a total of 23 different seals sighted on Kauai that day. The statewide (from Kauai to BI) total count was 50 seals.

Updates:

  • PK6 born at Milolii in September is male, the mother is R400, the same female that has pupped at Milolii in Sept the past 2 years. The pup weaned on approximately Oct 31, resulting in 41-day nursing period. Tour boats and kayak companies are providing updates.
  • S/F R7AA was seen with a small lump under the left jaw line on 8/31/19, it was possibly a small abscess. The seal was re-sighted on 10/21/19 in good health with no obvious abscesses on the jaw line.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at KKO and released in July, continues to thrive on the North Shore.
  • All of the 6 pups born this year have been sighted recently and continue to thrive.
  • Displacements: A/F RK13 was displaced from the road edge at Fuji Beach, Kapaa at 3:00 am after calls from the police that the seal was on the road edge and in danger of being run over.
  • Molting: 3 seals molted this month.
  • Vaccinations: No vaccinations given this month.
  • Bleach marking: Two seals were bleach marked this month, both are new untagged seals.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.
  • Logged all seal sightings for PIFSC database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

Kauai’s sixth pup of the year is now a weaner. He was born on September 20, 2019, and his mother, R400, weaned him 41 days later on October 31, 2019. Other 2019 pups nursed  longer; however, this youngster is no lightweight. When he was flipper-tagged last week–as RL40–he measured 124 centimeters in length and 113 centimeters in girth. As you can see in these pictures, he looks nice and plump and healthy. The tagging team reported L40 (L40 left flipper; L41 right flipper) was strong and feisty and didn’t even depart the beach after tagging.

Kauai’s 2019 pupping season began on February 4 and appears to have ended on October 31–unless there is a late-season surprise birth. It’s happened before. In 2009, RK12 gave birth to a pup who was later flipper-tagged as RA36 in late November, the day after Thanksgiving.

IMG_5773

PC: M. Olry

IMG_5772

PC: M. Olry

IMG_5771

PC: M. Olry

IMG_5770

PC: M. Olry

IMG_5768

PC: M. Olry

IMG_5761

PC: M. Olry

This year has been one of downs and ups for three-and-a-half-year-old RH38. It started with a drastic weight loss that earned the female a visit to Ke Kai Ola on Hawaii Island where she became the first wild Hawaiian monk seal to undergo a CT scan. After an extended stay and recovery from near death, RH38 was returned to Kauai, and it looks like she’ll end the year on a high. Turns out, RH38 is a survivor, like her mother. RH38 was born to the legendary RK30 in May 2016.

Thanks to a telemetry tracking device attached to her back when she was returned to the wild, scientists are able to keep an eye on her movements. (The telemetry device will fall off the next time RH38 molts, if not before.)

The “tracks” resulting from the device show RH38 has logged quite a few miles cruising nearly the entire circumference of Kauai.

RH38 Tracks

Here are some photos of RH38 from October that show her healthy body condition.

RH38 Werthwine 3

PC: M. Werthwine

PC

RH38 by Werthwine 2

PC: M. Werthwine

RH38 Werthwine

PC: M. Werthwine

A visit last week to the remote beach where Kauai’s sixth pup of 2019 was born on September 20th revealed two things: PK6 is male, and his mother is, as suspected, R400.

R400 is not flipper-tagged; however, her identification was confirmed from various scars–a line scar on the left side of her face and some small pit scars mid-back. Her most prominent scar is a medium-sized, semi-circular shark bite along her lower back on her right side.

Often, we sight pregnant seals on Kauai who seemingly disappear for four to six weeks, only to reappear looking quite thin. We suspect these seals go to Niihau to pup. However, in this case, R400 does the opposite. She spends most of her time on and around Niihau and comes to Kauai to pup. Therefore, little is known about her. But here’s what we do know:

  • She pupped along Napali Coast on September 11, 2017, and photographs revealed identifying scars. She was logged into NOAA’s ranks as R400. However, R400’s pup was never tagged due to the heavy waves and large swells that roll in for the winter about the time the pup was weaned.
  • On September 15, 2018, tour boat operators reported a female seal with a newborn pup at this same remote Napali beach. Again, due to the pup’s arrival coinciding with the return of the winter season’s swells, the pup was not flipper tagged. This time, no photographs allowed for a confirmed identification of the mother. However, the timing matched what would have been a due date of R400.

IMG_6706IMG_6707