Archive for January, 2022

RK58 with infected wounds from dog bite.

About a year ago, subadult male RK58 appeared on the beach with two puncture wounds, one on each side of his head. His body condition quickly deteriorated. His weight dropped. his head wounds swelled and oozed. He was reported to be lethargic and unresponsive to human activity on the beach.

After a health assessment, it was determined RK58 had been attacked by a dog. He was captured and flown to Ke Kai Ola on Hawaii Island where he was rehabilitated and, eventually, returned to Kauai and released.

Unfortunately, the RK58 dog encounter wasn’t the last. 


Last September, a woman reported two large dogs barking at a seal hauled out at Makua Beach on the north shore. The seal growled in return and moved toward the water. 

In December, a large dog pinned down a seal also at Makua. The dog’s owner pulled the dog off the seal. The seal left soon afterward and no blood was observed. The next day, the dog’s owner called to self-report the incident.

This year, already, two more incidents have been reported, both taking place at Mahaulepu. In one, two off-leash puppies flushed a seal into the water. No contact was made. In the other, three off-leash dogs flushed a seal into the water. In both cases, the dog owners were nearby but not in control of their dogs.

And these are the only incidents that have been reported.

The seal’s health isn’t the only concern in these interactions.  Seals carry diseases that are communicable to dogs. Hawaiian monk seals, like any wild animal, are likely to act aggressively if they feel threatened. A dog that is merely investigating too closely may be considered a threat to the seal. 

As a reminder, dogs are not allowed at County of Kauai beach parks. Elsewhere, according to Kauai County Code Leash Law Section 22, dogs must be under control of their owner by a leash (not more than eight feet long) when off the owner’s property. 

Too, Hawaiian monk seals are protected by Federal and State laws. Owners of any dog that disturbs a monk seal may be cited in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and/or the Endangered Species Act.

In general, to help monk seals: 

  1. Keep beaches clean.
  2. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  3. Keep seals wild—give them space.
  4. When fishing, pull your fishing line in until the seal leaves the area.
  5. Keep cats exclusively indoors. Cats that live outdoors spread the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which is lethal to monk seals and other native wildlife.
  6. Vaccinate your pets and keep dogs leashed at all times. Dogs have injured and even killed monk seals through attacks and bites, and they can disturb seals resting on the beach. They can also transmit diseases to seals.
  7. Promote healthy oceans.
  8. Share your enthusiasm and educate others.

Click here for more ways to be a friend to endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

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One more recap for 2021. Here you’ll find the top ten Hawaiian monk seals “reported” on Kauai during 2021. “Reported” seals are those that were called in—and identified—to the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline. (See a monk seal on the beach? Report it to 808-651-7668.)

However, what’s not included in this list are pups born in 2021. That’s because regular “pup watches” by dedicated volunteers tend to skew pup “reported” numbers. And because moms spend the first four to six weeks of their pups’ lives right by their sides, they’re also not included in this list–at least, their time with their pups is not included. Because you’ll see our number one reported seal was RK28, a mom, and 105 of her reported sightings did not include days with her pup KP3.

So, here’s the Top Ten list for 2021:

  1. RK28 – 105 reports
  2. RM36 – 70 reports
  3. R2XW – 61 reports
  4. RM28 – 50 reports
  5. Temp606 – 42 reports
  6. R353 – 40 reports
  7. RG58 – 38 reports
  8. temp607 – 37 reports
  9. RL08 – 36 reports
  10. R1KY – 36 reports

This list is quite different from last year. To compare years, click here. To learn more about each of these seals, scroll down until you find their permanent ID number under the “categories” column on the right and click on their ID. That will return a list of all the previous mentions of them on this website.

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Monk Seal Monday #154: 2021 In Review

Like data? Here’s some numbers crunched from 2021.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Management Stats:

Grand sightings total: 

o   2,377 or 6.5 seals sightings/day on Kauai in 2021

o   2,005 or 5.5/day in 2020

o   3,154 or 8.9/day 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   65 unique individual seals sighted on Kauai in 2021

o   67 in 2020

o   67 in 2019

o   60 in 2018

o   60 in 2017

o   56 in 2016

o   53 in 2015

o   47 in 2014

Births: 3 total born on Kauai in 2021

o   2 pups born on the north shore

o   1 pup born at Polihale Beach, translocated the north shore after weaning.

Mortalities: 2 confirmed mortalities in 2021:

o   R1NI: 3-year-old male. Cause of death undetermined.

o   KA210DX3: Unknown dead newborn seal found by public on north shore.

Niihau Seals (likely): sighted a minimum of 8 new seals in 2021, but likely more as several new untagged seals had no markings or scars to identify them, so no temporary IDs were assigned (8 in 2020, 5 in 2019, 9 in 2018, 12 in 2017, 6 in 2016, 14 in 2015).

Displacements: 5 total displacements occurred.

o   5 displacements from the Poipu Keiki Pool. 

Vaccination for morbillivirus efforts: 

o   6 seals were vaccinated

Bleach marking effort: 

o   4 bleach marks were applied

Stranding Responses in 2021: 

Cetacean response:

o   A subadult pygmy sperm whale stranded dead on the south shore. The carcass was sent to the UH Health and Stranding lab for necropsy. Cause of death was determined to be vessel strike.

o   Near mass stranding of 40 pilot whales in Hanalei bay – out of habitat animals spent a day in Hanalei Bay exhibiting unusual behavior typically observed prior to animals beaching themselves. The pod moved offshore overnight.

o   A dead adult male sperm whale drifted ashore near Kilauea. No necropsy was possible due to the location and conditions.

Hawaiian monk seal responses: 

o   RK58 – sustained serious dog-bite injuries that led to systemic infection. He was sent to Ke Kai Ola monk seal hospital for care and was successfully released on Kauai two months later. 

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Seal entanglements come in many forms. There’s nets, monofilament, and various ropes and lines used in the fisheries industry. But there are also large rubber bands used in commercial crab posts and plastic packing straps. In Alaska, packing straps cause more than 50 percent of neck entanglements in Steller sea lions, according to NOAA

In South Africa, Cape fur seals are also particularly vulnerable to neck entanglements with plastic box bands. This video shares the inventive response by volunteers to help save entangled Cape fur seals. Note the specially-created tool designed to cut bands from the seals’ necks.

A couple years ago, a team with the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui created their own unique tool to disentangle a piece of gill net from the muzzle of RK13. That technique has now been shared with other Hawaiian monk seal responders.

Hagfish traps are also a problem. They’re cone-shaped and have been known to get stuck on the muzzle of inquisitive—often, young—seals. If the traps are not removed, the seal won’t be able to forage and will eventually die of starvation. Surfrider Foundation’s Hawaii Chapter is currently cataloging hagfish traps that wash ashore in Hawaii. You can help by documenting any you find on (and remove from) the beach. Report the number of traps found and forward photos to hagfish@surfrider.org

The thing all these entanglement hazards have in common is their material construction—they are made out of some form of plastic. It’s important to help seals by reporting (call 808-651-7668) any entangled seals on the beach. Also, helping conduct beach cleanups on your own or with groups like Surfrider. There are many components involved in the solution. Two, they suggest, are reducing plastic use overall and becoming an advocate.

A third way to help is to support others in their noble missions. On Kauai, several groups are attempting to make a difference right at home. The nonprofit Ho‘omalu Ke Kai was recently featured in The Garden Island. They’re hoping to collect plastic before it ends up in the ocean or the landfill in Kekaha. They clean plastic that’s not recyclable through County of Kauai and make it available to Plastic Paradise who upcycles the plastic into products like chairs and picnic tables. Learn how you can help the Ho’oponopono Plastic Program here.

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