Archive for October, 2021

Monk Seal Monday #146: Long-Distance Swimming.

Red. That’s almost always the color of tags on Hawaiian monk seals that get flipper-tagged in the main Hawaiian Islands. Red contrasts nicely with the shades of gray that are monk seals.

On rare occasions, however, a Hawaiian monk seal has galumphed up the beaches of Kauai sporting black tags with white lettering. The vast majority of monk seals that arrive on Kauai from Niihau are untagged. But a few are tagged, including NG00, N1AA, and NL04.

A couple weeks ago, a report was made of a monk seal sporting gray-colored tags numbered G89. 

Credit: State of Hawaii DLNR/Lesley Macpherson.

A quick search of the monk seal database revealed that the flipper tag of G89 was associated with a weaner, identified in the scientific database as KG54, a female. She was first flipper-tagged as a weaner in 2015 on Hōlanikū, also known as Kure Atoll. Hōlanikū is notable for its location as the most northern and western of all Hawaiian Islands, some 1,300 miles away in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

But there’s an even more interesting story about KG54. It’s this: She was last sighted at Kure Atoll on August 14, 2021 and first sighted on Oahu on September 22, 2021. Here’s the math: She swam an average of 34.5 miles per day in 5 weeks or less.

KG54 is not the only monk seal who has journeyed from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to the main Hawaiian Islands. More of those stories can be found here

This is yet another example of the importance of reporting any and all seals to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui by calling and/or texting 808-651-7668. The next island KG54 visits might just be Kauai.

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Field Report: September 2021

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 251 seal sightings this month. This included 30 individually identified seals.

  • September: 251
  • August: 213
  • July: 286
  • June: 218
  • May: 209
  • April: 155
  • March: 137
  • February: 119
  • January: 125
  • December: 119
  • November: 133
  • October: 152
  • September: 152


  • Discovered another new yearling male seal near Kapaa. The seal is likely from Niihau and we hope to flipper tag him soon.
  • Off-leash dogs and irresponsible pet owners continue to disturb seals. Two large dogs were witnessed by the public harassing a large seal at Makua (also known as “Tunnels”). The seal was lunging and vocalizing at the dogs as the dogs continued to circle and bark at it. No physical contact was made. The owner was out snorkeling and did little to intervene once out of the water. DOCARE and the Humane Society were contacted. The Humane Society field officer said they will focus patrols in that area. Additional reports of off-leash dogs were received this month. 


  • Adult female RK28 pupped on the north shore on August 10, 2021. The mother and pup (KP3) remained in the area until the pup weaned on October 2, 2021. The nursing period was 53 days. Flipper tagging and vaccination is scheduled for October.
  • The female pup RP20 born at Polihale and translocated to the north shore after weaning has remained in the release area; and has been sighted socializing with other juvenile seals regularly. 
  • Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, our new methods of monitoring continue, which include:
    • Weekly surveys of key areas conducted by staff;
    • DAR staff conducting weekly island wide Creel Surveys;
    • PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos; and
    • 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: RP32 received her initial vaccine this month.

Molting: Four seals molted this month.


  • The volunteer response program was restarted in a modified form 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 follow-up emails sent to new recruits.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

  • Subsampled KP3 tissue plug 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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Over the years, the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui has collected hundreds and thousands of photographs from volunteers of numerous and oodles of individual seals, especially moms and pups. Now, thanks to those photographs, the team has been able to positively identify the untagged female who gave birth earlier this summer to a pup (RP20) at Polihale.

Turns out, she was a known seal, after all. All it took was a good clean look at some tell-tale scars. The good look came after she molted post-weaning.

So, here’s the big reveal: Polihale Mom is R400.

For several years, R400 birthed late in the summer along Na Pali coast; however, last year she was sighted on Oahu (for the first time) in July, and she did not look pregnant. Evidently, she took a year off before returning to Kauai to give birth to RP20.

Here are some scars that led to the identification of Polihale Mom as R400:

  • Semi-circle lower left back;
  • Cookie-cutter shark semi-circle anterior left front nipple;
  • Neck scar that varies in appearacne
  • Unusual line scar 3rd digit left fore flipper;
  • Lighter scars include teeth rake marks lower back, two canine tooth punctures, and parallel lines mid-back, visible in 2021, likely will fade. 

Here are just a few photos (credit M. Olry & J. Thomton) of R400 (and her scars) over the years.

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