Archive for January, 2020

It’s not uncommon for monk seals from Niihau–where they aren’t tagged–to venture over to Kauai. Earlier this month, an untagged Hawaiian monk seal male showed up on the north shore, hanging out in the same general area for seven straight days, and it was assumed he was from Niihau. Volunteers managed to take pictures pinpointing several unique scars that should have made it easy to identify him. But his scars didn’t match any such seals in the NOAA database, and he was given the identification of R406. Then, seemingly as soon as he appeared, he disappeared, presumably back to Niihau. But last week, he was sighted hauled out on the shores of Oahu. Is this just the beginning of his journey? Or did his journey start farther northwest of Niihau? And where will he venture next? At least, he’s now well identified and logged in the database.

Langley 1

PC: Langley

Honnert 1

PC: Honnert

Honnert 3

PC: Honnert

Langley 2

PC: Langley

Honnert 2

PC: Honnert

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Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 180 seal sightings this month. This included 32 individually identified seals.

December: 180
November: 223
October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284


  • Subadult female R7AA was sighted with a medium sized circle hook in her left cheek. The Kauai team responded and were able to capture her on the beach and remove the hook without complications. A 2-foot heavy gauge monofilament leader and pigtail swivel was attached to the hook which presented a serious entanglement and drowning hazard. The seal was immediately released and has been sighted since with no signs of infection.
  • An untagged adult female that has not been sighted on Kauai previously hauled out at Poipu and has since become a somewhat regular seal on the south shore. This seal was previously sighted on Niihau in 2017 with a pup and has an ID of R371. She has numerous scars and can be easily identified, even without flipper tags.
  • Another untagged Niihau adult female was sighted for the first time on Kauai’s north shore. Her ID is R367.
  • Another untagged likely Niihau seal molted at a remote east side beach. He is a new seal to Kauai and has a temp ID of Temp361.
  • Yearling RL58 observed with a large fresh cookie cutter shark bite very close to the genital slit. The seal was closely monitored for possible infection, and the seal has quickly recovered.
  • A volunteer observed a tourist attempt to pet the large adult female RK90 at a west side beach. The seal responded by leaving the beach. Outreach was conducted by the volunteer.


  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at KKO and released in July, continues to thrive on north shore. Her tracking tag remains attached, however the battery has died so no further data is being transmitted.
  • All of the 6 pups born this year have been sighted recently and continue to thrive.
  • Displacements: No displacements this month.
  • Molting: Adult male RN02 spent 3 weeks at the busy Poipu Beach in pre-molt, molt, and post-molt which required extensive volunteer coverage. One other seal molted this month in less busy areas.
  • Vaccinations: A booster morbillivirus vaccine was given to new juvenile seal R1NI.
  • Bleach marking: none this month.

Research/Support of PIFSC

  • 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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Here’s some year-end data that might make for some interesting reading and analysis the next time you’re at the beach. So, have at it!

Grand sightings total:

o   3,154 or 8.9/day monk seal sightings on Kauai in 2019

o   3,253 or 8.9/day in 2018

o   3,621 or 9.9/day in 2017

o   3,236 or 8.9/day in 2016

o   3,321 or 9.1/day in 2015

o   2,516 or 6.9/day in 2014

Kauai population:

o   67 unique individual seals sighted on Kauai in 2019

o   60 in 2018

o   60 in 2017

o   56 in 2016

o   53 in 2015

o   47 in 2014)

Other stats:

  • Births: 6 total born on Kauai.
  • Mortalities: one confirmed mortality in 2019 and one suspected.
  • Niihau Seals: sighted a minimum of 5 new seals in 2019 likely from Niihau.The Kauai team flipper-tagged 2 of these.
  • Displacements: 21 total displacements occurred.

o   15 displacements from unsafe or unsuitable locations (boat ramps, beach roads, sidewalks, etc).
o   6 displacements from the Poipu Keiki Pool.

  • Vaccination for morbillivirus efforts:

o   4 seal pups and 1 new juvenile seal were fully vaccinated on Kauai.

  • Bleach marking effort:

o   9 bleach marks were applied

Stranding Responses in 2019:

  • 7 monk seal stranding responses:

o   RH38 – captured and transported to Ke Kai Ola for rehabilitation. The seal was emaciated due to unspecified blunt trauma to the rear flippers resulting in a systemic infection and a cascade of medical complications. The seal recovered and was released back on Kauai.

o   RKA6 – captured on the beach and a large circle hook was removed from the mouth.

o   NG00 – captured on the beach and a large circle hook was removed from the right cheek. The seal had been hooked for over 2 years but was never sighted in a location safe for capture and handling.

o   R7AA – captured on the beach and a medium size circle hook was removed from the left cheek.

o   Unknown adult carcass – discovered on Niihau and transported to Kauai for partial necropsy.

o   RH58 and pup – assisted pup by cutting the umbilical cord which remained attached to the placenta. This posed a hazard to the pup near the wave wash which could have pulled the pup out to sea.

o   Adult Female – closely monitored and evaluated for emaciation in the months after weaning her pup. The seal most likely died of natural causes and old age.

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