Archive for October, 2019

Monk Seal Monday #74:

A visit last week to the remote beach where Kauai’s sixth pup of 2019 was born on September 20th revealed two things: PK6 is male, and his mother is, as suspected, R400.

R400 is not flipper-tagged; however, her identification was confirmed from various scars–a line scar on the left side of her face and some small pit scars mid-back. Her most prominent scar is a medium-sized, semi-circular shark bite along her lower back on her right side.

Often, we sight pregnant seals on Kauai who seemingly disappear for four to six weeks, only to reappear looking quite thin. We suspect these seals go to Niihau to pup. However, in this case, R400 does the opposite. She spends most of her time on and around Niihau and comes to Kauai to pup. Therefore, little is known about her. But here’s what we do know:

  • She pupped along Napali Coast on September 11, 2017, and photographs revealed identifying scars. She was logged into NOAA’s ranks as R400. However, R400’s pup was never tagged due to the heavy waves and large swells that roll in for the winter about the time the pup was weaned.
  • On September 15, 2018, tour boat operators reported a female seal with a newborn pup at this same remote Napali beach. Again, due to the pup’s arrival coinciding with the return of the winter season’s swells, the pup was not flipper tagged. This time, no photographs allowed for a confirmed identification of the mother. However, the timing matched what would have been a due date of R400.


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On Saturday morning, October 19, 2019, volunteers from around the Main Hawaiian Islands combed beaches, scanned coastlines, and reported any monk seal sightings between 9:00 and 12Noon.
Here on Kauai, a total of 20 seals were sighted. This was a record high for Kauai. Of course, minutes after the close of the four-hour reporting window, another monk seal was sighted on Kauai. And a little while later, another two. However, for the four-hour official time slot, our number was 20. Not only was that a record high for Kauai during any previous count, but it was the highest of the day for any other island.
Here’s a look at the general locations where Kauai’s 20 were spotted:
Oct-19 Monk Seal Count by Kauai Region
A total of 50 Hawaiian monk seals were sighted across the main Hawaiian Islands. Here’s how the numbers break down by island:
Kauai: 20
Molokai: 13
Oahu: 12
Maui: 2
Lanai: 2
BI: 1
Total: 50
Oct 19 Monk Seal Count by Island
Here’s a look at a trend line by island since 2007.
Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Moloka‘i, Maui_Lāna‘i, Hawai‘i Island…
Keep in mind, these numbers are a snapshot in time, not a true count of the entire population. For every one seal sighted on land, there may be one or two more foraging at seal. Plus, there may be others on land but well hidden. Weather plays a factor. Number of volunteers, too.

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The Kauai team logged 203 seal sightings this month. This included 31 individually identified seals.

September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284


  • A second pup was born at a remote beach along Na Pali Coast. The ID of the mother is unknown, but likely the same Niihau female that has pupped on that beach the past two Septembers, R400. Tour boats and kayak companies are providing updates.


  • Sub-adult female R7AA was seen with small lump under left jaw line on 8/31/19, possibly a small abscess. The seal has not been re-sighted since. The plan is to closely monitor.
  • RH58 (Rocky) successfully weaned her female pup, PK5. The pup was flipper-tagged and vaccinated and now has an ID of RL58.
  • RK30 successfully weaned her female pup, PK6. The pup was flipper-tagged, and the seal’s ID is now RL30.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola and released in July, continues to thrive on the north shore.
  • The first three 2019 pups (RL08, RL52, and RL28) continue to be sighted in good condition at various north and east shore beaches.
  • Displacements: No seals were displaced this month.
  • Molting: Four seals were observed molting this month.
  • Vaccinations: PK4 and PK5 were vaccinated during pup tagging and received booster vaccinations three weeks later.
  • Bleach marking: One seal was bleach marked this month.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center:

  • 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.

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In March 2018, called the hotline to report an adult Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on Poipu Beach with something dangling from her mouth. What’s more, the seal looked skinny. The concern with a report like that is always that a Hawaiian monk seal has ingested a fish hook and is unable to forage on her own. After consultation with NOAA officials and veterinarians, it was decided to conduct a physical examination of the seal.

Turns out, a fish bone was lodged between the seal’s hard palette, left inner cheek, and tongue, and the dangling matter hanging from her mouth was a large octopus arm that had gotten caught on the fish bone.

The seal wasn’t flipper-tagged, but she was known as R376. After removing the fish bone, injecting her with an antibiotic to combat any infections, and flipper-tagging the seal (7AU left and 7AV right), she was released.

R376 isn’t seen around Kauai often. In fact, she’s only been reported to the hotline nine times this year, usually on the south shore. It’s suspected she spends most of her time on Niihau. But she turned up on Kauai at just the right time one-and-a-half years ago. And, now, her most recent sighting shows she’s continuing to thrive. In fact, her size is such that there’s some speculation she may be pregnant. Now, how’s that for a survival story!IMG_6606



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