Archive for May, 2020

We are sad to report that the two-year female seal known as RKA6 was found dead this past weekend in a remote location on Kauai. Unfortunately, a necropsy and cause of death determination was not possible due to the seal’s advanced state of decomposition, however there were no obvious signs of illness or injury. Following CDC, NOAA, and state COVID-19  guidelines, the seal was buried on site.


PC: G. Langley

RKA6 was born on Kauai on June 30, 2018 to the well known mother R028. She was the 4th pup born in 2018, and therefore known as PK4 until flipper tagged KA6 and KA7 after 39 days of nursing. She was also involved in a brief mother-pup switch and spent the day with another female until reunited with her mother.

After weaning she remained near her birth beach for the first 6 months of life. At 4 months old she was observed with a small fishing hook in her mouth, but she was able to throw the hook on her own without intervention. At 9 months old she was hooked again, this time with a large circle hook. The Kauai team successfully removed the hook and she fully recovered.

Sightings of her over the next year became very sparse, only being sighted 5 times total in 2019 and not at all in 2020, however on those few occasions she was in good body condition and looked healthy.


PC: G. Langley

Where she disappeared to is anyone’s guess, but this is not unusual. For example, a seal on Molokai was presumed dead after disappearing soon after weaning and not re-sighted for several years. Then this year she surprisingly returned to her birth beach and gave birth to her own healthy pup. It’s a good reminder that Hawaiian monk seals are wild animals with unpredictable and mysterious lives.

Read Full Post »

Field Report: April 2020

Updates: The Kauai team logged 117 seal sightings this month. This included 25 individually identified seals.

April: 117
March: 200
February: 264
January: 319
December: 180
November: 223
October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348

The first pup of the year weaned from RB00 after 45 days of nursing. The female pup is extremely large and thriving, and will be flipper tagged in the future. A bleach mark (V00) was applied in early May.


·       Adult female R313 was found dead on the north shore. During carcass retrieval a fetus and placenta were expelled. Both were frozen for future necropsy. R313 was removed from the beach and buried.

·       Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, we have transitioned to new methods of monitoring seals. This consists of:

o   Weekly surveys conducted by NOAA and DLNR staff.

o   DAR staff conducting weekly island wide Creel Surveys.

o   PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos.

o   Requesting that people who call the hotline to report seals assist us by sending several photos and setting-up SRA signs or sticks.

Through this combination of techniques, we have been able to monitor and collect health condition photos on most Kauai seals weekly. The beaches were closed to the public so very few reports of people disturbing resting seals were received.

Read Full Post »

The female monk seal identified as R313 was somewhat elusive. Over the years, she’d be seen for months and weeks and days, gaining weight, looking evidently pregnant; then, she’d disappear for six or eight weeks. Only to reappear looking quite skinny.

It was always assumed R313 was born on Niihau and returned there when it came time to deliver her own pups, a practice that’s not unusual among Hawaiian monk seal moms.

In 2020, R313 was repeating this same pattern. She was reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui 13 times since the start of the new year, first appearing on January 4th looking freshly molted. She was reported every few days thereafter until March 15th about the time COVID-19 restrictions reduced our volunteer efforts and all but eliminated beach-going activities. None of these reports indicate anything amiss with R313.

It was nearly six weeks later before R313 was next reported to the hotline, and on the afternoon of April 25th, she was confirmed dead at Hā’ena Beach Park. Sadly, she was also pregnant at the time. R313 was estimated to be, at least, 15 years old at the time of her death.

Screen Shot 2020-05-11 at 6.41.36 PM

Here, a resting R313.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, a necropsy was not conducted; however, her fetus and placenta were preserved for sampling and testing at an appropriate time in the future. This might reveal some clues as to the cause of R313’s death. There were no external signs of trauma, but not all trauma is visible. R313’s body was removed from the beach and buried.

R313 was not flipper-tagged but sometimes bleach-tagged as V23. However, she was easily identified by her numerous cookie cutter shark scars on her back and belly along with several line scars.

The most common causes of death in main Hawaiian Islands monk seals include fisheries interactions, trauma, and toxoplasmosis. None of these can be ruled out as the possible cause of R313’s death at this time.

As a regular on Kauai, R313’s presence will be missed along with her contributions to the Hawaiian monk seal population.

Read Full Post »

We now have a “weaner.” And a very healthy one, at that. Last week, after 45 days of nursing, RB00 weaned her pup, PK1. Last year, RB00 nursed her pup, RL08 for 54 days.

Because we’re still operating under COVID-19 restrictions, PK1 won’t be tagged right away; however, she’ll be easy to identify, since she (yes, a female) is our only Kauai pup for the year thus far.

For the next few months, PK1 will explore her near-shore natal beach, as she figures out how to forage on her own. She’s already been sighted tossing sea cucumbers around, so her innate curiosity is already leading her to what will now be her lifelong refrigerator, the ocean.

Here are a few photos that illustrate her, shall we say, rotund state;-)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read Full Post »