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(P)update #4

PK1 is a boy! (That makes two for this year.) And he’s discovered his flippers, biting at them, flapping them, generally figuring out what they can do.

201706013 PK1 Discovers Flipper

PC: K. Rogers

RK22 continues to be a very protective mother, however she is now more comfortable being physically separated from her pup at times. On PK1’s 17th day of life, mom was observed logging in the water 50 feet away from PK1, while he was sound asleep on the beach. She was still keeping a close eye on him though. Also, several snorkelers reported being charged by RK22 while they were entering the water to swim. We do not advise swimming at any beach with a mom and pup pair present.

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PC: J. Thomton

Field Report: May 2017

Busy Month De-hooking Seals.

Juvenile male seal RG22 was found with a small hook again on May 1. A team was quickly assembled to capture and attempt hook removal. The original small J hook was no longer visible, however a rusty medium sized circle hook was incidentally found wedged inside the left lower jaw, which required sedation for removal. RG22 was transported to the DLNR base yard and held overnight to await arrival of an Oahu veterinary team to assist. He was sedated and the rusty hook was removed. Radiographs revealed that the smaller hook and was no longer present.

RG22 hook(ValBloy)3

PC: V. Bloy.

On May 11, hooked adult female RK90 was found with large male, R336 at Ahukini Cove. Due to her large size, a skilled NOAA seal handler from Oahu joined the Kauai team. The team isolated and captured RK90 with crowding boards, removed the large circle hook and immediately released her to re-join R336.

RICOH IMAGING

PC: M. Miyashiro.

 

Seals of Concern Updates.

ThreeSealsandHonu,20170422(LynnNowatzki)

Photo credit: L. Nowatzki.

Subadult male, RN02, continues to interact with people in the water, but the level of interaction seems to have decreased somewhat in May. Fortunately we are seeing that he socializes with seals extensively (and the odd turtle!). He has not made contact with people yet. This is a good reminder to remember NOT to engage with monk seals in the water.

RH92, juvenile female, translocated to the West Side, returned to Lihi canal within two weeks, however we are pleased to report that she is foraging in a wider range along the east coast and spending less time in the canal where fish scrap dumping appears to have decreased due to increased outreach and law enforcement patrols.

 

Seals Heal in Amazing Ways!

20170426,Fuji,RK13(Miyashiro)

Photo credit: M. Miyashiro.

Adult female, RK13 was found on April 26 with a large wound to her face, with tears to the skin around her nose, leaving her left nostril (nare) no longer visible. Close inspection revealed a series of triangular cuts, indicating a shark bite. Seal wounds close up and fill in by a process called tissue granulation. We expected RK13 to have extensive scarring and possibly the loss of a nare. Amazingly one month later, her face was completely healed with only a few small scars and both nares patent and normal! Our NOAA veterinarian was kept informed of the wounds and healing progress to determine if intervention was indicated. Though wildlife wounds often look disturbing, wild animal medicine demonstrates how resilient wild animals are.

(P)update 2017: #3

20170607 K22 and PK1 Thomton

RK22 and two-week old PK2. (PC: Thomton)

These days, mom (RK22) and pup (PK2) are spending more and more time in the water and hauling out up and down the beach, resting at the waterline during the day and, then, galumphing up higher at night. PK2 is growing; however, still sticks close to mom when sleeping.

Mom continues to be protective and vocalizes at people who get too close (her comfort distance with a pup on the beach seems to be about 50 feet, although we recommend 150 feet minimum). While lounging on the beach, she appears to be sleeping; however every 30 seconds she very slightly opens her eyes to survey the beach and nearby waters for potential threats to her pup. Those threats are primarily sharks and other monk seals, however snorkelers and swimmers are often confused as threats as well.

Please remember to give all monk seals, especially moms with pups, extra space. Stay downwind, out of their line of sight, and camouflaged behind bushes when possible.

20170607 K22 and PK1 3 Thomton

RK22 and two-week old PK2. (PC: Thomton)

20170607 K22 and PK1 2 Thomton

RK22 and two-week old PK2. (PC: Thomton)

 

20170607 R336 Male Thomton

A cruising male (R336) stops by to investigate mom and pup. (PC: Thomton)

 

 

(P)update 2017: #2

What’s better than one pup? It’s two! The day after RK22 gave birth, another reliable mother, RK30 also pupped. This one, we know, is a male. Here are a few pictures of the one-week-old pup, known as PK2.

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(P)update 2017 #1

20170524,RK22,PK1(JulieHonnert)5

RK22 and PK1 (Day 1). Photo credit: Honnert

It’s a pup!

Kauai’s first pup of the year was born one week ago today to RK22, who surprised us by pupping earlier than we anticipated. What’s more, she pupped on the same day as last year. Her pup goes by “PK1” until it will be banded after mom weans it in a few weeks.

PK1 has spent the last week learning how to nurse and swim–but sticking close to mom. Those two activities along with sleeping make up the little pup’s days.

PK1 Four Days Old

RK22 and PK1 (Day 4).

More new seals for Kauai.

On March 28 a juvenile male seal was first sighted on the North Shore. His only remarkable scar was a small cookie cutter shark bite on his left mid side. He quickly became a regular, so a team was put together to tag him with flipper tags 3CD and 3CE, making his official ID R3CD. He also received a morbillivirus vaccine.

V76(Thomton)

PC: Thomton

A new adult female seal with a small pit scar on her right mid side also started to appear on the rocks at Brenneke’s beach, and continues to rest there regularly. She was bleach marked V76, and received her first morbillivirus vaccination.

RG22 dehooked.

20170417,Palamas,RG22(JDT)2

PC: Thomton

On April 16, visitors snorkeling at Mahaulepu called the hotline to report that they had cut free a seal entangled on coral. They sent a video that identified it as juvenile male, RG22. The next day, he was sighted at Palamas, so a team was assembled to respond. Fortunately, even sporting the biggest hook we’ve ever come across, the team was able to cut and remove the hook that pierced the left corner of his mouth. The fishing gear was a slide bait rig used for ulua fishing and included the bait that looked like a Hawaiian white eel or Conger eel, known locally as Tohei.

RH92 returns to Lihi Canal.

RH92 (Dennis Fujimoto)

PC: Fujimoto

After wildlife biologists and veterinarians relocated 10-month-old RH92 on March 30th from the Lihi Canal in Kapa‘a to a beach on the island’s west side, we’d hoped she would stay away from the canal. Unfortunately, she returned to the canal along with an adult seal (RK13). Together they’ve been seen feeding on small fish in the manmade waterway along with discarded fish parts. The return of RH92 to Lihi is prompting stepped-up public awareness and outreach and potentially enforcement of littering laws for fishermen who dispose of fish parts in the water.

Seals of concern.

RN02, subadult male, has demonstrated increased curiosity of people, pursuing swimmers and following the public up the beach. He is also interacting with scuba divers, taking fish from skin divers at Koloa Landing. He then hauled out on the boat ramp, undisturbed by divers walking past him to enter and exit the water. RN02 was displaced from the ramp using crowding boards. RN02’s curiosity also proved dangerous with marine debris, found around his neck, which he later escaped on his own. We hope this is just a part of reaching sexual maturity, but we are considering ways to curb his behaviors.

Another incident of concern made the evening news (click here) in which a dog owner should have moved away from the seal, but instead engaged the seal, and endangered both his pet dog (on a leash) and the seal.

Kauai Vaccinations have begun for 2017.

This year we will include females (except those within two months of pupping) in our morbillivirus vaccination program. This includes 18 males and 26 females. Coordinators will be busy trying to find these seals to give initial vaccines and boosters 3-5 weeks later, so we appreciate all your sightings!

Field Report: Winter 2017

The winter of 2017 has turned out to be busy for the Kauai HMS Conservation Hui.

RICOH IMAGING

Photo credit: Miyashiro

In January a new juvenile female seal was sighted. She has what appears to be a healed cookie cutter shark bite behind her left eye. She also has a pit scar on her right mid side. She was originally sighted on Ni’ihau and is officially R347.

In February five more juvenile female seals were sighted. Four of them were bleach marked and/or flipper tagged, so we can track and monitor them, especially since several of them are fairly clean of scars or natural bleach marks can often be used to identify untagged seals.

One with a faint scar behind her left eye was entered into the monk seal registry as R351 and bleach marked V73. A week later, using her bleach mark to identify her, she turned up on Molokai.

A youngish female popped up on the east shore several times, with a distinguishable natural bleach mark on the tips of her left fore flipper. She was flipper tagged and is now 1NS.

R1NS(Miyashiro)1

Photo credit: Miyashiro

On the west shore, a juvenile female was bleached V75 and flipper tagged as 1KM.

Two more female yearlings were found on the west shore, one of which was bleached as V2.

20170223,Palamas,RN02(JDT)3

Photo credit: Thomton

In February, RN02, a subadult male who was translocated from Big Island to Niihau in 2013 after he repeatedly interacted aggressively with swimmers, was sighted with blood near his mouth. A visual examination revealed a small hook and approximately six inches of monofilament fishing line along his gum line. Consultation was made with a marine mammal vet, and it was determined the hook would likely loosen and fall out on its own. Thus, no intervention was deemed necessary at the time.

Sadly, a well-known Kauai seal was found dead in late February. R4DP, a female, was approximately 15 years old. She was first tagged on Kauai in 2008. That same year she was flown to Oahu for examination for suspected ingestion of a fish hook. Upon examination, no hook was found, and she was returned to Kauai and released. Unfortunately, after necropsy, it was determined R4DP’s injuries were inconsistent with natural causes. Thus, as a marine mammal protected by the Endangered Species Act, her death is being investigated by law enforcement officials.

This is the 11th “suspicious death” of a monk seal since 2009, and the first since 2014.  Anyone having information related to the death of R4DP or any other suspected monk seal death should call the NOAA OLE hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at (808) 873-3990 or 643-DLNR.

2016 Pup Update:

Weaned pup updates RH80 continues to appear on the north and east coasts of Kauai, looking healthy. Also, for the first time since she was flipper tagged last summer, RH38 popped up on the North Shore, also looking healthy.

RICOH IMAGING

Photo credit: Miyashiro

RH92 is looking good, too, although she turned up with a cookie cutter shark bite on the right side of her head. Though it is the usual 3” circular wound, it appears very large on her small head and looks deep. Fortunately the bite missed vital structures of her eye and ear. Monk seals have an amazing capacity to heal from large wounds on their own. RH92 is healing fine, and the wound will likely shrink to a small pit scar. Of greater concern for RH92 is that she was found for the first time hanging out near a small boat landing, foraging and eating a fish, likely scraps tossed out by fishermen. This is a good reminder not to throw fish and scraps into the water, especially if a seal is present.

Lihi Canal