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Archive for the ‘RG13’ Category

Field Report: Winter 2016

Field Report: Winter 2016

For the first four months of 2016, a total of 1,094 seal sightings were logged via the Hawai‘i Monk Seal hotline on Kaua‘i. This breaks down to:

  • January: 286
  • February: 227
  • March: 289
  • April: 292

March Seal Deaths: Two seals were lost in March. On Kaua`i, RG13 a yearling female, was found dead in the Lihi Canal in Kapa`a. Also, RT12, born on Kauai, a 6-year old male that had been living on O‘ahu was found washed up dead. Carcasses were collected and investigated by law enforcement and biologists, and then thoroughly examined by marine mammal veterinarians . Tissues were sent for further investigation for cause of death, as nothing was found on gross necropsy. Both RG13 and RT12 were seen healthy and behaving normally days before death, and they were in good body condition. Each necropsy indicated acute death and histopathology results provided no indication of disease or injury. Inconclusive results such as these are challenging, however one likely cause that is of great concern is acute death by entrapment underwater causing wet, not dry drowning.

Seal of Behavioral Concern, R1KY: Mid April, a young adult female R1KY, originally from Ni’ihau and primarily sighted at Salt Ponds and Poipu, suddenly started to swim with snorkelers and the many swimmers at Poipu county beach park. Previously she was very social with other seals of varying ages. With no seals around, she began following swimmers in the water and onto shore with an avid and unsafe interest for her and the public. R1YK’s behavior could escalate into “seal play” or mating behavior of biting and holding people down in the water. NOAA and DLNR coordinators, researchers, and managers have been in discussions and have implemented a plan. If you see R1KY (she has a bleach mark on her back “V01” and also a red tag on the left rear flipper 1KY) appear between Sheraton and Brennekes beach, please report her to the hotline (808-651- 7668) . Remember! If a seal is swimming among people DO NOT call people out of the water or bring attention to the seal, as this may cause panic and a possible drowning.

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Pup-date! As you know from previous postings, four Hawaiian monk seal pups were born on Kauai in 2015. Here is a synopsis of where they are today and how they are doing.

hawaiian monk seal pup on kauai

Photo credit: G. Langley

The oldest pup, RG13, is now 7 months old and has become a somewhat elusive north shore seal with sightings ranging from Papa’a to Ha’ena. A snorkeler saw her underwater at Tunnels last month looking healthy, normal, and most importantly behaving like a wild seal that made no attempt to interact with the swimmer (and vice versa!).

Entangled seal

The next pup, RG22, is now 6 months old and has moved to the south shore where he was sighted last month wearing (entangled) someone’s swim goggles! They fell off within a couple of days and caused no harm. Since then he has been sighted routinely hauling-out along the rocks in the Makahuena Point area.

Photo credit: J. Thomton

Photo credit: J. Thomton

The third pup, RG28, has not been sighted for several months, however this is not uncommon as these young seals often tuck into quiet rocky locations and are not sighted very often. For example, another young Kauai seal, RN30, was born in 2013 and completely fell off our radar for 16 months (between May 8, 2014 until September 27, 2015) but has now been sighted weekly looking extremely healthy. We hope the same is true for RG28.

hawaiian monk seal pup on kauai

Photo credit: G. Langley

The youngest pup, RG58, is still only 4 months old and is sticking closely to his birth beach on the north shore. He was a really big pup measuring almost as big around as he is was long, like a beach ball with flippers. This thick layer of blubber gives a naive pup a great energetic advantage while learning to forage and fend for itself during the critical time after weaning from their moms. As you can see from this recent photo, he continues to maintain a healthy body condition. You know what they say about marine mammals…blubber is beautiful!

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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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