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Archive for October, 2014

Field Report: Summer 2014

Banner pupping year on Kauai – 5 pups!

In addition to the previous pups reported (PK1, PK2 and PK3) two more pups were born on the north shore of Kauai. RH58, a well known and very successful mother gave birth to PK4 on June 28th. RK28, another proven mother gave birth to PK5 on July 16th.

Pups only spend around 40 days with their mothers, during which they gain massive amounts of weight from nursing. The typical pup is born at 35 pounds and gains between 100-150 pounds in a short 5-6 weeks! The mothers fast during this time and convert blubber into very rich milk (twice the calories of heavy whipping cream).

When the mother’s blubber is depleted they abruptly wean their pups by departing, usually at night, and do not return. The young pups are large, healthy and strong swimmers by this point and quickly learn to forage on their own. They are still very naïve, however, and can easily be taught to seek humans for food and company, so it’s crucial that we monitor these ‘weaners’ and make sure humans do not interfere with this critical developmental stage. Shortly after weaning, the pups are flipper tagged and given new permanent IDs, all of the pups born in 2014 were tagged as the ‘F’ cohort (i.e. RF22, the R identifies Main Hawaiian Island seals)

Meet the 2014 Kauai ‘F’ cohort:

RF22  Photo credit: Langley

RF22 male. Photo credit: Langley

RF28  Photo credit: Langley

RF28 male. Photo credit: Langley

RF30  Photo credit: Thomton

RF30 female. Photo credit: Thomton.

RF58  Photo credit: Langley

RF58 female. Photo credit: Langley.

PK5 Male.  Photo credit: Langley.

PK5 male. Photo credit: Langley

Off-Leash Dogs: Tragically, PK5 was killed by stray dogs when he was only two weeks old. The incident occurred during the night and was therefore not witnessed by our diligent pup-sitters. Tracks, blood, and injuries to four other seals, including PK5’s mom, indicated that the mother seals did their best to protect their pups. PK4 (now tagged RF58) had over 60 bite marks on her body and developed major abscesses around her neck. She immediately received medical attention and disease screening by a NOAA veterinary team, and fortunately healed quickly. Currently she is doing well and learning how to be an independent juvenile seal. Permanent neck scars will help us identify her, but pose no risk to her survival.

This was the first known monk seal death caused by a dog and a warning to all of us that we must keep our dogs on leashes (it is State law on all beaches) and strongly encourage everyone else to do the same.

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