Archive for June, 2011

Field Report: April/May 2011

(Photo credit: Langley)


It’s pup season!  Kauai is now home to three brand-new Hawaiian monk seals!

Our first pup of the year was born to RK22, a female known for abandoning two of her previous pups.  This time around, RK22 was a very good seal mom!  She was protective of her pup and successfully nursed HIM for 34 days!  That’s right, PK1 (Pup Kauai #1 of the year) is a BOY!   If his early life is any indication, he will be a very strong seal!  RK22 took PK1 out past the reef, into open water several times when he was only three weeks old.  This is very unusual behavior – scientists and managers were in suspense waiting to see if he would return safely – but he did, every time!

The second Kauai pup of the year was born to RH58, a female who usually lives on Oahu, but returns to Kauai to give birth each year.  PK2 is a GIRL!  She was born just a few yards away from RK22 and PK1, and is quite a bit larger than PK1, even though she is two days younger.

Both of these pups have already been weaned.  Hawaiian monk seal moms only stay with their pups for 5-7 weeks.  After that, it’s up to the pup to learn how to be a seal!

The time between weaning and one year of age is the most vulnerable time in a young seal’s life.   This is the time when the animal either learns how to be a wild seal, or learns something else.  Newly weaned seals are very curious, and are often seen “socializing” with rocks, logs and coconuts, as well as other nearby seals.   If people approach a young seal at this age, it is very possible for the seal to become habituated to humans, and even conditioned to approach his greatest threats, including boats, nets, and other fishing gear.  If you see a young seal, or ANY marine mammal, it is important to stay far enough away to avoid changing the animal’s natural behavior.

Kauai’s third pup was born to RK30, a very distinctive female seal with extensive scars.  She has one entanglement scar around her neck, and a large scar on her left side of unknown origin.  RK30’s pup was born on a very remote beach, and we have not yet determined its gender.

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