Archive for October, 2016

Field Report: September

Logged seal sightings:
September: 222
August: 230
July: 414
June: 356
May: 263

Pup Update:

Photo credit: M. Miyashiro.

On September 21, some fishermen contacted DOCARE (Hawaii state Dept. of Conservation and Resources Enforcement), because a loose dog had attacked a small monk seal. An officer immediately responded, found the dog’s owner, and issued a citation. Our Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui team found the seal, one of this year’s weaners, with multiple puncture wounds. The following day RH92 was given antibiotics and, thankfully, resights of her show the small punctures did not become infected and have healed.

Vaccinating Seals:
Since June, Hawaiian monk seal coordinators have been vaccinating Kauai seals against morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. Our goal was to vaccinate 20 seals on Kauai, focusing only on males and juveniles. Studies have not been conducted on possible side-effects the vaccine may have on a developing fetus, so sexually mature females were excluded. We were successful, with the valuable aid of many volunteers assisting to find seals, to fully vaccinate 19 seals! The program is now on hold as the vaccines have expired and the manufacturer is not currently producing more. We are in discussion with the company and hope to continue vaccination efforts in the near future.

On Oahu, two seals were hooked this month. On Rabbit Island a yearling seal was sedated to remove an external hook from its mouth. The other seal, a large adult male had ingested a hook, so he was captured, and the hook was surgically removed. He is recovering well in captive care. Amazingly, this is the 2nd time this male seal has had a hook surgically removed from his stomach!

In Other Marine Mammals News:

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Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hawai`i Island : In September, a large male false killer whale (FKW) was found live stranded on the south end of the Big Island. This endangered Hawaiian insular FKW died shortly afterwards and the Hawaii team lead by Tom Elliot organized to pull this very large heavy whale out of the surf and onto the beach to collect the carcass for necropsy.

Oahu: On September 17, a lone melon-headed whale calf was found swimming in Kailua Bay, Oahu. The calf, approximately 5 1/2 feet long, was likely still associated with its mother and from visual assessment showed signs of malnutrition. After careful consideration of all factors related to the case at hand and previous cases, it was determined that any rescue intervention would not be successful. To read the full story click here.

Turtles, Turtles, Turtles:

Poipu turtles.jpg

Photo credit: NOAA

This summer there has been an increase in the numbers of green sea turtles coming to rest on Kauai’s beaches. Visitors and volunteers have reported seeing up to 12 turtles on the Poipu beach, resting at night and departing at dawn. Many of these sea turtles also feed on the seaweed “limu” on the shallow rocks and may come ashore to bask on the beaches during the day. While sea turtles are not our primary concern, we do want to prevent these threatened turtles from being disturbed and to help the life guards to instruct visitors to give turtles respectful space to rest and forage.

Monk Seal Recovery News:
The Toxoplasmosis and At-large Cat Technical Working Group met October 7 to review technical findings on the impacts of toxoplasmosis on wildlife and methods to disseminate accurate information to the public. To learn more about toxoplasmosis, please read this article from Honolulu Magazine and this one from Smithsonian.com.



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Field Report: July and August

Logged seal sightings:
August: 230
July: 414
June: 356
May: 263

R8HY Hooked on Oahu and Dehooked on Kauai

R8HY, Gary Langley.png

Photo credit: G. Langley.

On July 15th, R8HY was sighted swimming around Oahu with a large ulua circle hook, Searches were started for the adult male seal, and he was found resting at Moloa’a bay, Kauai on July 18th! Fourteen feet of heavy monofilament line was trailing from the seal and loosely wrapped around his rear flippers. After receiving authorization, most of the trailing line was cut, leaving 1 foot still attached to the hook. Unfortunately, the hook’s tip was not visible, and it was determined veterinary assistance was needed to remove it. On the morning of July 19th, R8HY hauled up at North Larsens beach where a team was able to successfully remove the hook.


RK28 Sighted with Mobbing Wounds

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Photo credit: C. Sterling.

On August 7th, the public reported a wounded seal on the rocks along the coast at Princeville. Volunteer found an adult seal resting on the rocks with a fairly fresh large superficial wound of the skin and blubber layer. The seal had bite and scratch wounds along her back consistent with mating wounds. No intervention at the time was indicated because the wounds were healing well. On August 12th, RK28 was re-sighted at North Larsen’s beach. The wound was healing well, with the skin closing over pink granulation tissue. Three days later, she was seen again at Anini, and the wounds were shrinking and closing well, showing how quickly and remarkably well seals can heal on their own.

Another Hooked Seal


Photo credit: G. Langley.

On August 12th, a volunteer walking the coastline on Kauai’s North Shore spotted a swimming seal with a hook sticking out of its cheek. Then, on August 23rd, it’s believed the same seal hauled out on the South Shore, and a team was able to remove the hook and flipper tag her (R7GM) at the same time. 



Pup Update


Photo credit: G. Langley.

All three pups are weaned, flipper tagged, bleach marked and doing well. To recap: 

  • RK22’s pup was flipper tagged H91/H92 and bleach marked V92.
  • R028’s pup was flipper tagged H80/H81 and bleach marked V80.
  • RK30’s pup was flipper tagged RH38.


RH80,Gary Langley 2.png

RH80 with bleach mark V80 for easy identification in the field. Photo credit: G. Langley.

Vaccination Update
Since June, the Kauai team has been vaccinating Kauai seals against Morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. As of now, 19 of 20 seals were booster vaccinated.

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