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Archive for the ‘R8HY’ Category

face_seal_J36_male_12DEC17_DLOn July 19, 2017, our second pup of the year was tagged RJ36 (born to RK30) at his natal birth site along a stretch of Napali Coast. But he wasn’t officially re-sighted again until late in the afternoon last week Tuesday when a field biologist at Pacific Missile Range Facility reported two seals had hauled out along Kauai’s southwestern shore. One was R8HY and the other turned out to be RJ36. The field biologist observed some unusual scars just forward of the weaner’s left fore flipper and across his dorsal above his rear flippers.

tail_seal_J36_male_12DEC17_DLAfter reviewing photos of RJ36 with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program (HMSRP), the consensus is RJ36 had an encounter with a shark. The good news is RJ36 appears to be in good health. His wounds have healed, and he’s looking nice and plump.

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In the Main Hawaiian Islands, HMSRP does not rank sharks as a major threat to monk seal survival. According to HMSRP, there have been no documented cases of mortality from sharks in the Main Hawaiian Islands. However, that doesn’t mean they haven’t happened, as those events probably go completely undetected.

RJ36 isn’t Kauai’s only known seal with suspected shark encounters.

There’s also RJ36’s mom, RK30, who was first sighted as an adult by the HMSRP in 2005, already with what’s possibly a scar from a shark bite. She also has a dozen or more cookie cutter shark scars dotting her body.

More recently, another mature female RK13 was sighted in 2011 with two apparent shark wounds–one above her left fore flipper and the other on her right ventral side. We reported on it here. She was regularly sighted along Kapaa’s canals as she recovered from her injuries. She was also pregnant at the time but eventually gave birth to a healthy pup, RL10. Then, in May of this year, we reported here that RK13 was sighted with an unsightly wound to her nares (nostrils), possibly due to a shark bite. Monk seals have an amazing ability to heal themselves through a process called “tissue granulation,” and RK13’s wound healed nicely.

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There are two other known seals with shark wounds. RH92 was a newly weaned pup in 2016 when she turned up with a fresh and deep cookie cutter shark wound on her head.

RICOH IMAGING

R1KY has a large shark bite scar below her right fore flipper, most visible on her dorsal side. R1KY

It’s impossible to know for sure that all these scars are due to sharks and specifically what kind of shark; however, three shark species are common suspects:

  1. Tiger: Considered an apex predator, Tiger sharks grow to lengths of 18 feet and longer, wearing up to 2,000 pounds. This shark inhabits coastal and pelagic waters. Tiger sharks mature slowly and pup in litters of 35 to 55 individuals. Their name comes from the dark, vertical stripes that, interestingly, lighten in color as they age. They can live 30 to 40 years. They eat a wide variety of marine animals and carrion and have been called, “the garbage can of the sea.”
  2. Cookiecutter: The cookiecutter shark, also called the cigar shark, lives in warm, oceanic waters worldwide and particularly near islands. Its common name comes from the cookie cutter-like wounds it leaves in its prey. It lives at depths of 3,200 feet during the day but migrates up the water column at night to feed. To feed, the fish uses its suction cup-like lips to attach itself onto prey. Then, it spins its body, using the row of serrated teeth on its lower jaw to remove a plug of flesh, leaving behind crater-like wounds that are two inches across and approximately two-and-a-half inches deep.
  3. Galapagos: This shark grows to 10 feet in length and generally eats bottom fishes and cephalopods. In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where approximately 85 percent of the Hawaiian monk seal species lives, Galapagos sharks have been recorded predating on monk seal pups in nearshore waters around French Frigate Shoals. It’s hypothesized that a small group of sharks are involved in this behavior. You can read more about this unusual mortality event and mitigation efforts here.

Not all appearances of sharks spell trouble for monk seals, as this video from National Geographic’s CritterCam shows. At 1:50, you’ll see sharks in the foreground but no interaction between the species. And at 4:42, you’ll see the Crittercam-toting monk seal chase off a couple reef sharks.

 

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Field Report: July and August

Logged seal sightings:
August: 230
July: 414
June: 356
May: 263

R8HY Hooked on Oahu and Dehooked on Kauai

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Photo credit: G. Langley.

On July 15th, R8HY was sighted swimming around Oahu with a large ulua circle hook, Searches were started for the adult male seal, and he was found resting at Moloa’a bay, Kauai on July 18th! Fourteen feet of heavy monofilament line was trailing from the seal and loosely wrapped around his rear flippers. After receiving authorization, most of the trailing line was cut, leaving 1 foot still attached to the hook. Unfortunately, the hook’s tip was not visible, and it was determined veterinary assistance was needed to remove it. On the morning of July 19th, R8HY hauled up at North Larsens beach where a team was able to successfully remove the hook.

 

RK28 Sighted with Mobbing Wounds

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Photo credit: C. Sterling.

On August 7th, the public reported a wounded seal on the rocks along the coast at Princeville. Volunteer found an adult seal resting on the rocks with a fairly fresh large superficial wound of the skin and blubber layer. The seal had bite and scratch wounds along her back consistent with mating wounds. No intervention at the time was indicated because the wounds were healing well. On August 12th, RK28 was re-sighted at North Larsen’s beach. The wound was healing well, with the skin closing over pink granulation tissue. Three days later, she was seen again at Anini, and the wounds were shrinking and closing well, showing how quickly and remarkably well seals can heal on their own.

Another Hooked Seal

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Photo credit: G. Langley.

On August 12th, a volunteer walking the coastline on Kauai’s North Shore spotted a swimming seal with a hook sticking out of its cheek. Then, on August 23rd, it’s believed the same seal hauled out on the South Shore, and a team was able to remove the hook and flipper tag her (R7GM) at the same time. 

 

 


Pup Update

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Photo credit: G. Langley.

All three pups are weaned, flipper tagged, bleach marked and doing well. To recap: 

  • RK22’s pup was flipper tagged H91/H92 and bleach marked V92.
  • R028’s pup was flipper tagged H80/H81 and bleach marked V80.
  • RK30’s pup was flipper tagged RH38.

 

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RH80 with bleach mark V80 for easy identification in the field. Photo credit: G. Langley.

Vaccination Update
Since June, the Kauai team has been vaccinating Kauai seals against Morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. As of now, 19 of 20 seals were booster vaccinated.

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Field Report: June

Updates for our Kauai seals and pups.

RK30 weaned her pup, PK1. This pup most likely nursed 49 to 50 days, making this a very big pup. On Monday, June 27th, she was tagged and vaccinated and is now, officially, RH38, (tags H38/ H39).

Milolii pup (ScubaTomPhotography)2

RH38

RK22 weaned her pup, PK2, on Sunday, July 2, after 41 days of nursing.

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PK2 (Photo credit: G. Langley)

RO28 arrived from Oahu and pupped, PK3 on June 15. Both are doing well.

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PK3’s first recorded nursing bout with RO28.

Vaccinating seals on Kauai.

The Kauai coordinators are in the process of vaccinating Kauai seals against Morbillivirus, a disease that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs. To protect our rare Hawaiian monk seals, the first ever vaccination of wild seals has been initiated, as epidemics of this deadly virus have devastated other seal species populations around the world. So far, 13 Kauai seals have received their initial vaccination and some their second booster shot. We are now earnestly looking to booster several male seals, and volunteers can assist us by looking out for RF28 ( red tags, and transmitter on his back, on the north and east sides of Kauai), and N1AA (black tags on the south and west sides of the island). Also, RN30, R8HY subadult males found primarily on the east side often Ahukini cove.
Here is a video of how seals are vaccinated. We will put out a list as time goes on, to identify which seals we are looking for to booster in the 3-5 week window and would truly appreciate assistance in looking for them.

RF28 and RF30 released and doing well.

On May 27, RF28, a juvenile male seal, was found with an ingested hook that was successfully removed on Oahu by a veterinary team. He was soon released back on Kauai with a transmitter on June 2.

RF28(MaryFrances)

RF28 (Photo credit: M. Miyashiro)

RF28 locations

Dive data RF28

A week later, we were surprised to find another internally hooked seal, RF30, a juvenile female! She was located at the Poipu county beach park keiki pool where she was logging and acting strangely. A team was assembled for a water capture using fence panels and crowding boards. This challenging capture was successful due to our many fine volunteers that rallied on a very short notice. Without volunteers to find and assist with capturing these injured seals, none of these successes would be possible! We supremely need and appreciate all our volunteers! RF30 was also transported to Oahu by a US Coast Guard C-130. She was found to have some swelling in the throat where the hook was lodged and at the base of the tongue. It was successfully removed using an endoscope and specially designed tools. Four days later RF30 was flown back to Kauai and released on the east side of the island where she normally resides. Both seals are fitted with satellite tags that are solar powered.

RF30 release (MaryFrances)2

RF30 (Photo credit: M. Miyashiro)

RF30 locations

Dive data RF30

Tag (LloydMiyashiro)

Photo credit: L. Miyashiro

Other marine species:
News from NOAA Fisheries Sea turtle program. If you see a honu or ‘ea on the beach or in the water, please remember:

  • View sea turtles from a distance of 10 feet (3 meters). In Hawai‘i, we view turtles respect- fully. Give turtles space and don’t feed, chase, or touch them.
    Hawaiian honu bask on the beach. This is normal behavior. Don’t try to
    push them back into the water.
  • “It’s OK to help!” Fishermen, check your gear often, use barbless circle hooks and adhere to state gillnet rules. If safe for both you and the turtle, release accidentally caught turtles by fol- lowing these steps:
  1. REEL-IN the turtle carefully
  2. HOLD by its shell or flippers
  3. CUT LINE as close to the hook as possible, and
  4. RELEASE with no (or as little) gear or line attached.
  • “No white light at night.” Use wildlife friendly lighting near the coast (yellow/amber and shielded lights). Don’t use flash photography, and keep lights and beach fires to a minimum from May to December, when turtles are nesting hatchlings are emerging.
  • Avoid beach driving. Off-road vehicles crush nests, create tire ruts that trap hatchlings, and degrade habitats. Driving on the beach is also illegal in most areas.
    Prevent debris and rubbish from entering the ocean. Participate in beach and reef cleanup activities.
  • Report all hawksbill sea turtle sightings, any nesting activity (turtle tracks or nest digging), and injured or dead turtles to NOAA’s Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline on Kaua‘i: (808) 274-3344.
  • Report illegal or suspicious activity that may result in turtle injury or death by calling the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at
    (808) 587-0077 or 643-DLNR.

 

 

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(P)update #15

Mom/RK22 and pup/PK2 were in and out of the water today, racking up a total of four hours swimming. In between, they made good use of a good chunk of the beach.

Throughout the day, five feedings were observed. Speaking of feeding, here’s an interesting fact: The bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) (Mohr, 1952) and the monk seal are apparently the only phocids having four functional teats.

Three male visitors–V18, R336 and 8HY–made visits with just R336 attempting an approach.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

 

 

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(P)update #12

As the pup gets older, both swim and nap times grow longer. PK2 and RK22 continue to stick close together during this time. When one heads to the water, the other will follow. If one gets too far away, the other will call out, and the two will reunite. When one sleeps, the other sleeps.

Today, five feedings were observed between swims and naps. Two male visitors–R336 and R8HY–stopped by but no interactions occurred.

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

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(P)update #10

Seems mom/RK22 and pup/PK2 had a busy day today. Our volunteers logged two swims lasting two hours each and five feedings. Plus, three males–R8HY, RK05, and RV18–all paid visits, causing some displaying that is all part of the social dynamics of these animals. Mostly, the males are posturing to let mom know they’ll be ready when she goes into estrus again some time after pup is weaned. Sometimes, a male simply hauls out and sleeps on the beach somewhat near mom and pup. He may inch or roll toward her. All moms respond differently, but if/when a male gets too close, mom will raise up and give him a piece of her mind, and the male will back off if not leave the beach altogether. If a second male appears, the two males may tussle, typically with the more dominant one staying and the other swimming off. There is rarely physical harm done to any of the seals involved, but important messages of hierarchy are being communicated.

Of note is R8HY. Until quite recently, he’d been sighted regularly on O`ahu, perhaps a 100-mile journey, giving you an idea of the distances these seals can travel.

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Photo credit: V. Bloy

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Photo credit: V. Bloy

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

 

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We have three pups in three stages.

Hawaiian monk seal flippers up

Photo credit: V. Bloy

G13 weaned after 43 days, and is exploring the reef, spending much of her time in the water like this–sticking her head under rocks and crevices. She’s also sporting spiffy flipper tags–G12/G13. This is the time of her life where she’s figuring out what’s good to eat. She’s likely snacking on things such as sea cucumbers that won’t continue to be part of her regular diet. G13 has a good store of fat. Hunger is not yet driving her to forage far and wide. She continues to hang out near her natal beach but is starting to range a bit more. As she gets more confidence, stronger, and hungrier, she will forage outside the reef farther off-shore, and we’ll find her hauled out on beaches elsewhere on Kaua`i.

Hawaiian monk seal pup V22RK22 weaned PK2 after 41 days of nursing. Likewise, he is healthy and plump and sticks close to the beach where he was born. The two weaners have even been sighted rolling in the shallow water together. Shortly after PK2 was weaned, he was bleach tagged on his side as “V22.” Soon, he’ll get flipper tags.

Both weaners are often visited on the beach by various males, including R8HY, RK05, T320, among others.

Hawaiian monk seal mom and pupRO28 continues to nurse PK3, who can get quite vocal when he’s hungry, and has even been known to vocalize while he’s nursing–as well as, fall asleep while receiving his regular nutritious nourishment. His girth is nearly the same as his mother’s, as she has not feeding during these past four weeks. This is normal monk seal biology. It’s her own hunger that will finally force 028 to wean her pup. When she does, PK3 will be on his own, swimming the seas and mastering seal life.

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