Archive for September, 2021

Monk Seal Monday #144: Meet Temp607

There’s a new girl on island. Nope, not a pup. A juvenile. She made her first appearance in early September, and because she was reported in the same place as another similarly-sized juvenile seal, a male, had been recently seen, it was thought she was he. He had first been identified in July.

Neither are flipper-tagged and, for now, the male is known as Temp606 and the female as Temp607. So, not only are they similar in size and age and frequently sighted in the same area, they have similar identification numbers!

But there are differences (if sex is not readily identifiable), mainly in scars and natural bleach marks, so a close look (preferably through binoculars), can result in correct identifications.

Here are some notable identifiers for Temp606:

  • Two parallel line scars below his right fore flipper;
  • a V scar on his upper chest; and
  • Three white nails (a natural bleach identifiers) on his right fore flipper.

Temp607 is a very wary seal and spooks easily into the water. She also has her own unique set of scars:

  • Two pits scars on her back–one lower and one mid; and
  • Puncture-type wounds on the top of her head.

Photo credit: M. Olry and V. Poelzl.

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Monk Seal Monday #143: Male Aggression

When a monk seal hauls out on the beach with wounds on its back, the most common explanation is male-on-female aggression. That’s why earlier this month when a seal rolled onto the beach with a nasty wound on its back, the individual was suspected to be female. Too, the animal was tagged; however, the only visible characters on the very worn tag were “31.” That led to the conclusion the animal was female RF30 (with flipper tags F30 and F31).

However, on a closer look at the animal’s scars and tag in photographs, it was determined the monk seal was not F31. In fact, she wasn’t even a she. The wounded animal was, in fact, adult male RN30–with flipper tag N31. Subsequent photographs confirmed it.

While male-on-male aggression is rare, especially in the main Hawaiian Islands, it’s not novel. The behavior has been witnessed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and is suspected to be related to skewed male-to-female sex ratios. The aggressors tend to be subordinate males ganging up on females. (Like we reported here.) But they can also gang up on adult dominant males.

According to this paper, high concentrations of subordinate males in an area of few females can lead to aggregate aggression. Also, “…much of the evidence gathered to date suggests that aggressive incidents may be more likely to result from a ‘numerical’ failure, where a male that is capable of exerting dominance over 1 or 2 competing males is overwhelmed by a larger number of competitors and is unable to prevent their access to a female.”

The paper shares one particular event: “At the onset of an aggressive onshore attack observed in 1985, an attending male defended a female from a succession of 4 male challengers that remained nearby. Eventually, one of the ‘defeated’ males made a second attempt, and as he fought the attending male, another male rushed in. The defending male rushed back towards the female, followed by all remaining males, and was quickly overwhelmed (Johanos & Austin 1988).”

Earlier this summer, a group of males was video’ed mobbing a female off Lehua, suggesting there may be many subordinate males present off Lehua and Niihau. It’s not known whether N30 is a dominant or subordinate male, but it’s clear he was attacked. Perhaps N30 got mixed up in something similar to the anecdote shared above. Earlier this year, he was observed competing with RN44 for RB00 when she was with PK1. He’s also been sighted at PMRF, a popular spot for seals heading to and/or returning from Niihau. In fact, he was sighted (with no wounds) at PMRF on July 30th. He was next sighted on Kauai’s north shore and reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui on September 4th–bearing the mobbing wounds.

These mobbing wounds can look pretty dramatic. But monk seals have an amazing ability to heal and already, N30’s wounds are healing.

Photo credit: Olry and Megonnell

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Monk Seal Monday #142: Travel Pono

Recently, Hawaiian Airlines released this video. Please feel free to share it via your social media accounts.

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Monk Seal Monday #141: Meet RP32.

Kauai’s first pup of 2021 was born on April 23rd. On September 10th, he received his official flipper tags–P32 on his left flipper and P33 on his right.

Thanks to regular reports by volunteers and interested beachgoers, we have a bit of a history of what the youngster’s been up to in recent months:

  • After weaning around June 16th, he hung around his natal beach for a few weeks.
  • Then, he started to explore coastlines south of his birth area.
  • On July 15th, he was bleach-marked “V1,” making it easier to identify him, though he also has a distinct natural bleach marks, too–white tip on his right fore-flipper and a big white spot on his right side. The combination of the three bleach marks made it easy to identify him.
  • On July 29th, P32 was found with an ulua hook in the corner of his mouth. Fortunately, it was superficial and he was able to free himself of the hook by August 5th.
  • Once RP20 was translocated to this same area, P32 was often seen interacting with his and pups from 2020, RM36 and RM58.
  • Starting August 29th, P32 went missing.
  • He reappeared on Sept. 10th and, at that time, he was outfitted with flipper tags. Now, he goes by the permanent identification of RP32.

PC: M. Olry and V. Poelzl.

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Field Report: August 2021

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 213 seal sightings this month. This included 24 individually identified seals.

  • August: 213
  • July: 286
  • June: 218
  • May: 209
  • April: 155
  • March: 137
  • February: 119
  • January: 125
  • December: 119
  • November: 133
  • October: 152
  • September: 152
  • August: 198


  • Adult female RK28 pupped at a remote beach on the north shore. The mother and pup (KP3) remain in the area and are thriving. A daily pup watch schedule has been established and pup zone set with numerous signs.
  • Displaced one seal, JF R2XW, from the Poipu Keiki pool as part of the Poipu seal management plan.  
  • Return of visitors continuing to cause increased disturbance to seals across the island. 


  • The female pup RP20 born at Polihale and translocated elsewhere after weaning has remained in the release area; and has been sighted socializing with other juvenile seals on a daily basis.
  • 3-year-old male R1NI washed ashore dead at Palamas Beach on the south shore in April. Necropsy results are complete and no definitive cause of death has been determined. However, screenings for morbillivirus, toxoplasmosis, and other routinely screened pathogens were negative.
  • Subadult male seal RK58 was returned from KKO after 6 weeks of rehab and released on the north shore on March 26. He was treated at KKO for likely dog attack injuries that resulted in significant weight loss and infected puncture wounds. RK58 was finally resighted in August, on the east side of Kauai, and he is in good body condition.
  • Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, our new methods of monitoring continue, which include:
    • Weekly surveys of key beaches conducted by Olry and Thomton.
    • DAR staff conducting weekly island wide Creel Surveys.
    • PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos.
    • Requesting that people who call the hotline to report seals assist us by sending several photos and setting-up SRA signs or sticks. 

Morbillivirus Vaccination: RP20 (KP2) received her booster vaccine this month.

Molting: 4 seals molted this month.


  • The volunteer response program was restarted in June after being on hold since March, 2020. Currently, volunteers are dispatched for hauled out monk seal reports to post signs, assess and ID the seal, collect routine data, and then depart the area. Outreach/education should be as minimal as possible to reduce COVID exposure risk. For busy locations, a spot check schedule will be established. This technique has proven effective and will continue until further notice.
  • The training of new volunteers has been on hold due to COVID, Delta variant surging. Program information and followup emails sent to new recruits.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

  • Subsampled KP3 placenta for NOAA 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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