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Like normal growing pups, PK3 is spending more and more time in the water. He’s long, robust, and growing quickly. RK28 seems to be holding her weight, too. PK3 is 25 days old today, so should have another 2-3 weeks with his mom. PK3’s three-year-old sister, RL28, has been hanging out nearby lately too.

The Kauai team logged 320 seal sightings this month. This included 32 individually identified seals.

  • August: 320
  • July: 311
  • June: 283
  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213

New:

·       RK28 gave birth to PK3 (3rd pup of the year for Kauai) on the north shore. The usual signage was erected and the pup watch schedule continued. The male pup is thriving.

·       Closely monitored yearling RP32 who is in thin body condition. The seal is likely in pre-molt.

Updates:

·       RP28 – hooked and trailing line. Hook was non-life threatening in right corner of the mouth. Removed leader with metal swivel using a seat belt cutter mounted on a pole. Will monitor RP28, anticipate hook will come out on its own. UPDATE: seal was re-sighted several times this month and is hook-free; the seal threw the hook on his own.

·       An adult seal was sighted at Secret’s Beach with heavy line trailing from the mouth. The seal was chased off by an off-leash dog before staff arrived. The seal’s ID is unknown and no further reports of a hooked seal have been received. UPDATE: no further reports or sightings.

·       Pup translocation: female pup PK2 who was born at Polihale to R400 was immediately translocated to the north shore after weaning. The pup was tagged RQ52 (Q52/Q53 tags) and is thriving in her new location, socializing with many other seals in the area. UPDATE: the seal has remained in the release area and is thriving.

Molting: 3 seals molted this past month.

Vaccination: Vaccinated weaned pup RQ52.

Volunteers 

·       Trained 5 new volunteers

·       Volunteer pup watch schedule is in place for the pups and weaners on the north shore.

Late last week, regular “pupper” RK28 gave birth to Kauai’s third pup of the year. Here’s a photo of RK28 and her pup hours after birth.

PC: J. Thomton

RK28 was first identified as an adult in 2003, so she’s easily a minimum of 23 years old. She’s birthed eight known pups, but there have likely been others, too. In 2008, RK28 pupped on Oahu. In 2013, she was documented with a pup on Niihau. In 2014, she pupped for the first known time on Kauai. Then, starting in 2018, she’s pupped every year here. So, she pups around.

When you get to be RK28’s age, you’ve experienced some things, and over the years, she’s made headlines in these digital pages.

In 2021, she ranked as out number one reported Hawaiian monk seal on Kauai, especially impressive because the number of days she spent with her pup last year were not included in the total. (Read more about that here.)

In 2018, RK28 was involved in a “pup-switching” event, in which pups from nearby mothers somehow get switched. In this case, there were three moms/pups on the same beach at the same time. After numerous switches, the result was RH58, also known as Rocky, started showing aggression toward her pup. After numerous attempts to re-unite her with her pup, he was taken and successfully reared on Hawaii Island at Ke Kai Ola. (Read more about that here and here.)

In 2016, RK28 was involved in a male mobbing incident that left her with significant scarring on her back. (Read more about that here.)

In 2014, sadly, RK28 was involved in a horrific dog attack that left her two-week-old pup dead. (Read more about that here.)

Luckily, RK28’s recent pups are known to still be hanging around Kauai. They include: RKA4, RL28, RM28, and RP28. This year, both RM28 and RP28 were involved in hooking events.

This year’s pup has already been identified as male. He’s on the thin side, so it’s good to see him nursing, as in this photo.

PC: K. Rogers
PC: K. Rogers

The male Hawaiian monk seal pup known as Koalani has been relocated from the busy Kaimana Beach in Waikīkī to a remote Oahu shoreline. The move was made, according to NOAA, to “…allow Koalani to grow up wild and in the company of other monk seals, rather than surrounded by thousands of people every day during the most impressionable period of his life.”

Koalani is the 14th pup of RH58, also known as “Rocky,” and the second pup she’s birthed on Oahu. Her other 12 pups were born on Kauai. Rocky weaned Koalani on the evening of August 18th. During the transfer process, Koalani was given his permanent NOAA ID of RQ58. His flipper tags read Q58 (left) and Q59 (right). A satellite tag was also attached to his back to allow NOAA to monitor his movements over the coming weeks. When he was released at the new location, he headed to the water and began exploring the area and is reported to be doing well.

All images courtesy: DLNR

With the translocation of Koalani, state officials ended their 24-hour-a-day presence of DOCARE officers. According to a DLNR press release, the unprecedented law enforcement visibility started on August 3, after DLNR leadership responded to concerns about the safety of the seals and people. In July, a swimmer encountered the seals in the water near the Natatorium, and the protective mother seal bit her and caused minor injuries. The incident highlighted the real risks facing both the animals and curious humans who intentionally or inadvertently got too close.

During the two-week-long DOCARE presence on the beach and in the water, officers did not cite anyone for a violation termed “obstruction of a government operation.”

DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla stated, “Our men and women responded in force knowing that protection of our natural resources and public safety are part and parcel of DOCARE’s core mission. We haven’t calculated all the personnel costs, but we estimate the total time devoted to overwatch of the monk seals to be more than 500 manhours.”

The statement further shared that officers enforced a 50-yard cordon on the beach and in the ocean during the operation, which mirrors NOAA guidance for people to stay at least 150-feet away from resting or swimming seals. While no citations were issued, they did have to shoo away several swimmers who got too close to the animals.

All images courtesy: DLNR

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 311 seal sightings this month. This included 25 individually identified seals.

  • July: 311
  • June: 283
  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213
  • July: 286

New:

·       An adult seal was sighted at Kauapea (a.k.a. Secrets) with a heavy line trailing from the mouth. The seal was chased off by an off-leash dog before staff arrived. The seal’s ID is unknown and no further reports of a hooked seal have been received.

Updates:

·       RM28 – dehooked in June has been resighted several times and the external hook injury has fully healed.

·       RP28 – hooked and trailing line. Hook non-life threatening in right corner of the mouth. Removed leader with metal swivel with seat belt cutter mounted on a pole. Will monitor RP28. Anticipate hook will come out on its own. Seal has not been resighted to confirm if hook is still present.

·       Pup translocation: female pup PK2 who was born at a remote location on the west side to R400 was immediately translocated to the north shore after weaning. The pup was tagged RK52 (Q52/Q53 tags) and is thriving in her new location, socializing with many other seals in the area.

·       PK1 was flipper tagged as RQ60 (Q60/Q61 tags) and has remained near her natal beach. The pup’s girth was an impressive 130 cm, which is on the large size. And standard length was 152 cm, nearly a foot longer than the average pup.

·       The severely mobbed seal temp614 was last sighted on July 7.

Molting: 3 seals molted this past month. 

Displacements from Poipu Keiki Pool: R2XW subadult female – 1 time

Early last week, R400 weaned PK2 after 38 days of nursing. Because PK2 was born on a beach that sees heavy truck traffic, as well as, off-shore boat traffic (where she would be learning to swim on her own), it was decided to translocate PK2 to a safer beach elsewhere on the island–one with other monk seals present and an off-shore reef, providing her with a lovely lagoon in which to nose around and learn how to be a monk seal.

Prior to translocating, PK2 was tagged and is now, officially, RQ52–wearing a red tag with Q52 in the webbing on her left rear flipper and Q53 in the webbing on her right rear flipper. Her measurements were good for a healthy Hawaiian monk seal weaner in the Main Hawaiian Islands–133 centimeters long and 121 centimeters around below the fore flippers. She also received her first vaccination to protect her from morbillivirus and will be boostered in three weeks.

The translocation went smoothly with RQ52 sleeping in her transport carrier on a cool evening with some rain as the team drove through Kapaa. She was released about 50 yards from RQ60, who is about month older. Within a couple minutes, they found each and were left snorting and rolling around together on the beach.

By the next day, RQ60 had moved east down the coastline. Meanwhile, as recently weaned seals will do, RQ52 has approached other monk seals, attempting to nurse. In one case, adult male RN30 was not having it, nipping at her. She’s also been sighted hauled out near two-year-old RM36 and, on one occasion, a turtle.

RQ52 has also been spotted tossing around sea cucumbers. This is quite typical of newly-weaned pups as they decide what’s good to eat. Sea cucumbers are generally not something monk seals consume.

Volunteers are still needed to monitor these young Hawaiian monk seals. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, please email kauaiseals@gmail.com or call 808-651-7668.

After a whopping 50 days of nursing, RB00 weaned PK1 on July 15th. A few days later, she was bleach-marked V6. The next day, she was flipper-tagged Q60 (left flipper) and Q61 (right flipper).

This process usually takes about five minutes and includes a brief restraint while plastic flipper tags are applied in the webbing of the rear flippers. Her official ID is RQ60. The R indicates that she is part of the Main Hawaiian Island population and the Q indicates she was born in 2022, and 60 is her unique ID. During the tagging process RQ60’s length and girth were also measured, and a microchip was injected under the skin on her right flank.

Now, some interesting facts:

  • Average nursing days for “Kauai” mothers runs 42 days.
  • RB00’s longest nursing record on Kauai was 54 days in 2019. Pup was a male, RL08.
  • RB00 nursed RQ60 for 50 days.
  • At tagging, RL08‘s axillary girth measurement (around his body below his fore flippers) measured 143 centimeters. His length from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail measured 145 centimeters long.
  • At tagging, RQ60’s axillary girth measured 130 centimeters and her length came in at an astonishing 152 centimeters.

So, RB00 continues to produce some super-sized weaners.

Since tagging, RQ60 continues to hang out at her natal beach, spending more and more time in the water, investigating what the sea offers, including a few sea cucumbers. This is very typical behavior for Hawaiian monk seal weaners, as they figure out what’s good to eat in the sea.

What’s more, RQ60 has been hanging out with other young seals, including her older sister, two-year-old RM36.

On Oahu, RQ60’s grandmother RH58 (“Rocky”) has been making headlines again. She pupped on busy Waikiki beach a few weeks ago and, unfortunately, there have been various interactions with swimmers, including an altercation resulting in injuries to one swimmer. It’s always a good to steer clear of mother monk seals and their pups–give them extra wide berth in the water.

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 283 seal sightings this month. This included 27 individually identified seals.

  • June: 283
  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213
  • July: 286
  • June: 218

New:

·       Pup PK2 born on a remote west side beach to R400 in the same location as the previous year. Staff assessed and put up signs for a pup enclosure.

·       Seal response at Poipu, hooked J/F RM28. Team captured RM28 at Poipu Beach Park and removed hook from the right side of the neck. 

·       Seal response at Palamas, hooked J/M RP28.  Assessed seal, hook non-life threatening in right corner of the mouth. Removed leader with metal swivel with seat belt cutter mounted on a pole. Will monitor RP28, anticipate hook will come out on its own.

·       Seal with extensive mobbing wounds sighted at numerous sites on the south shore. Wounds appear to be healing slightly, continue to receive dozens of calls from the public daily. Will continue to monitor and assess if she haul outs and possibly administer antibiotics.

Updates:

·       RB00‘s pup PK 1 continues to thrive, the pup watch schedule continues.

·       Monk seal activity in the Poipu area remains high, with several seals hauled out daily on the very busy Poipu Beaches. 

Molting: 2 seals molted this past month. 

Displacements from Poipu Keiki Pool: RF28 adult male – 1 time

Volunteers:

·       Continue to be stretched thin with so many seals requiring intensive management at Poipu. We will continue to recruit additional new volunteers.

·       Volunteer pupwatch schedules are in place for both pupping events.

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 second pup (PK2) of 2022 arrived on June 26th to mom R400, known to spend much of her time around Niihau (but she once made an appearance on Oahu) and tends to give birth on remote beaches on Kauai.

So far, so good. Pup is growing and active. S/he’s staying in the same basic area and starting to swim for longer periods and around mom in shallow water.

PC: M. Olry

Meanwhile, on Oahu, one of the most well-known Hawaiian monk seals–RH58 (“Rocky”)–gave birth to her 14th pup at Waikiki. So, the 22-year-old won’t be making a visit to Kaua’i to give birth this year.

Two-year-old RM28 is a Kauai regular. Last year, she ranked fourth on the top ten list of most reported Hawaiian monk seals on the Garden Island.

RM28 is known to haul out on the South Shore. This past April, RM28 had to be displaced (by a trained team) from the keiki pool at Poipu on two occasions.

But she hadn’t been seen for a couple weeks until this past Friday when she, once again, hauled out in Poipu—this time entangled with a fishing hook and line. A team responded and determined she had neither ingested the hook nor lodged it in her mouth and/or cheek. The hook was, weirdly, located on the external side of her neck. The team was able to successfully catch her, remove the hook, and release her.

Here are some photos. 

PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton