Archive for April, 2023

Last year, we shared some of the more unique sleeping places of Hawaiian monk seals reported over the years on Kauai. Those beach spots included alongside logs, chaise lounges, picnic tables, beach mats, and blocks of concrete.

According to NOAA, “[Hawaiian monk seals] usually sleep on beaches, sometimes for days at a time. They also occasionally sleep in small underwater caves.”

Hawaiian monk seals belong to the family Phocidae. Known as “true seals,” phocids are characterized by having no external ears. Another true seal, the elephant seal, was recently revealed to sleep while diving.

According to Science Daily, “The new findings, published April 20 in Science, show that while elephant seals may spend 10 hours a day sleeping on the beach during the breeding season, they average just 2 hours of sleep per day when they are at sea on months-long foraging trips. They sleep for about 10 minutes at a time during deep, 30-minute dives, often spiraling downward while fast asleep, and sometimes lying motionless on the seafloor.”

This video explains:

In one extreme case, a 2010, a Hawaiian monk seal (RO12) was recorded going on 2,000-mile open-ocean journey. While Hawaiian monk seal biology isn’t quite as extreme as elephant seals—they may spend days at sea but not months—could monk seals, too, sleep while diving?

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First-time Mom RF30 continues to be an attentive mother while PK1 grows and develops into a healthy (nearly) one-month-old Hawaiian monk seal pup. He’s losing his black natal coat and spending more and more time swimming. All good signs.

Mom and pup have also attracted curious visitors—male monk seals. It’s not uncommon for males to show up on the beach soon after mothers give birth. Sometimes more than one male will haul out at the same time. Typically, all attention is focused on the mom. Perhaps the males know that soon, the female will go into estrus, and she’ll be ready for mating. But while mothers are with their pups, they usually want nothing to do with any visiting male.

Not unexpected, RF30 has attracted the attention of an Hawaiian monk seal male—RN30. And RF30 did not roll out the welcome mat. In fact, the two tussled for quite a while on several occasions. At times, as these photos show, the pup was in the midst of it all. 

During these episodes—sometimes in the shallow water and sometimes on the beach—there is quite a show of teeth and jaw snapping and snot flying and grunting and sand flinging. A fray. There are rarely any injuries and none were known to occur among RF30, RN30, and PK1. In fact, after one particularly long encounter that was reported to extend more than two hours, the two adults formed a kind of truce and both took naps on the beach twenty or thirty feet apart. 

Here are a series of photos illustrating these kinds of encounters. 

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Field Report: March 2023

Update: The Kauai team logged 294 seal sightings this month (249 in Feb, 252 in Jan, 239 in Dec, 243 in Nov, 277 in Oct). This included 40 individually identified seals.


·       Niihau seal (J/F) Temp615, first found March 3 with wounded right fore-flipper. Assessed wound/seal behavior and consulted with NOAA biologists and vet. Decided to let wound heal on its own and not administer with antibiotics. The seal remained in the area has fully healed.

·       New pup born on the north shore to RF30. Pup is thriving.

·       Adult female RKA2 found logging for 5 days at Aliomanu. She was closely monitored and assessed with a pole camera. Head swollen with bite marks on head, neck, and flippers. Source of injuries unknown. Successfully administered antibiotics while seal was logging in the water. Administered a second dose along with pain meds while seal was hauled out 6 days later. Seal appears to be recovering.


·       Juvenile male R616 observed with severe laceration across base of muzzle. Closely assessed by staff, wounds exactly match previous seals injuries caused by hagfish trap cones. Seal monitored without intervention. Seal fully healed in 3 weeks. 

Molting: 1 seals molted this past month.

Displacements: 1 seal was displaced from the keiki pool.

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Some beaches are more popular than others for surfing and snorkeling and, even, seals. Take Kealia Beach Park. It’s not a popular haul out spot for Hawaiian monk seals. But, yesterday, a seal hauled out at this east side beach, more popular for body boarders and dog walkers.

The penultimate word in the previous sentence might lead one to worry that this story is about an unfortunate encounter between a “dog that runs in the sea” and one (or ones) that runs on four legs on the beach. And while there seem to be increasing numbers of monk seal and dog encounters across the island, this story does not end in one such encounter. Thankfully.

(As a reminder: state leash law says all dogs must be on leash and under owner’s control at all times on state beaches; however, no dogs—except service dogs—are allowed at County of Kauai beach parks, and Kealia is a County of Kauai Beach Park.)

But beachgoers were concerned. Lifeguards, too. A volunteer with the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui showed up and set up a “stick fence” to alert beachgoers to the snoozing seal. As is protocol, the volunteer checked the seal for entanglements and took photos. And something was different about this seal. Instead of red tags that are reserved for monk seals tagged in the Main Hawaiian Islands or even the black color used for Niihau seals, the volunteer reported this seal as “thin” and sporting gray tags. And that’s where things got really interesting.

Gray tags are usually reserved for monk seals tagged at 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. Hōlanikū also happens to host the most northern and western population of Hawaiian monk seals. 

Sure enough. After examining photos, it was revealed the seal was known as KG54 (with tags G54 and G89) born at Hōlanikū in 2015. 

But yesterday wasn’t this seal first sighting in the Main Hawaiian Islands. A female, she was first spotted on Oahu in late 2021 and throughout 2022. In January 2023, she was reported on Kauai’s west side looking rather large—maybe pregnant. Based on her 2022 molt date, NOAA biologists estimated a pup-date of mid-February.

But there were no more sightings of her until yesterday—and looking thin, suggesting she may have pupped in a remote location like Niihau and now, after weaning her pup, is on the move again. The question is where? Is she headed back to Oahu? Hōlanikū? Or will she stick around Kauai?

These are the kinds of interesting discoveries that make volunteers head out in wind and rain with their binoculars to see what they might find on the beach!

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