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Archive for the ‘RH58’ Category

First Kaua`i Pup of 2016

First Kaua‘i Pup of 2016

On April 26, a video showed a seal at Salt Ponds County Beach Park being harassed by a man. The seal was reported as RK30, a 17-year-old female and pregnant at the time. The video went viral, and a 19-year-old man was arrested within a few days by Hawai‘i State DLNR officers and NOAA Law Enforcement. Story here and video here.

The good news is that less than a week later, RK30 gave birth to her seventh pup. Story here.

PK1b

IMG_7357

We expect more to be born on Kauai, so be on the look out for any small black pups! Here is our schedule of expected births:

  • RK13 Due possibly any day, though her pregnancy is unsure.
  • RK22 Due at the end of May
  • RO28 Due June 10
  • RH58 Due July 28
  • RK14 Pupped early July 2015, usually pups on Ni’ihau
  • R313 Not sure when she pupped 2015, usually pups on Ni’ihau
  • RK28 Likely pupped June 2015 on Ni’ihau

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We are proud to announce that we have another pup. Fifteen-year-old RH58 arrived from Oahu on Sunday, July 12th. In the midst of stormy weather, on Monday morning, she was found concealed in naupaka bushes with a nice healthy pup–that has since been confirmed male. This is RH58’s ninth pup born on Kauai since 2006. While she has spent her adult life foraging the waters around and hauling out on the beaches of Oahu, like many monk seals, RH58 returns to her own natal beach to birth, as well.

Hawaiian monk seal

Photo credit: Rogers

Our third pup born to RO28 has weaned, and his mother returned to Oahu a few days later, accompanied by an untagged male seal, Temp 319. This third weaned pup is tagged G28/G29 and goes by the ID name of RG28. When hauled out, he likes to hang out in rocks. These weaned pups seek rocks and objects to nestle against, possibly missing mom, and are vulnerable to people and loose dogs. They are very naive and curious, as all young are when they are learning about their environment and how to feed and socialize. Unfortunately their “cuteness” gets them in trouble when people approach them, try to pet or swim with them, and–most dangerous for taming a wild animal–try to feed them.

hawaiian monk seal, pup, pk3, RG28

Photo credit: Bloy

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Field Report: Summer 2014

Banner pupping year on Kauai – 5 pups!

In addition to the previous pups reported (PK1, PK2 and PK3) two more pups were born on the north shore of Kauai. RH58, a well known and very successful mother gave birth to PK4 on June 28th. RK28, another proven mother gave birth to PK5 on July 16th.

Pups only spend around 40 days with their mothers, during which they gain massive amounts of weight from nursing. The typical pup is born at 35 pounds and gains between 100-150 pounds in a short 5-6 weeks! The mothers fast during this time and convert blubber into very rich milk (twice the calories of heavy whipping cream).

When the mother’s blubber is depleted they abruptly wean their pups by departing, usually at night, and do not return. The young pups are large, healthy and strong swimmers by this point and quickly learn to forage on their own. They are still very naïve, however, and can easily be taught to seek humans for food and company, so it’s crucial that we monitor these ‘weaners’ and make sure humans do not interfere with this critical developmental stage. Shortly after weaning, the pups are flipper tagged and given new permanent IDs, all of the pups born in 2014 were tagged as the ‘F’ cohort (i.e. RF22, the R identifies Main Hawaiian Island seals)

Meet the 2014 Kauai ‘F’ cohort:

RF22  Photo credit: Langley

RF22 male. Photo credit: Langley

RF28  Photo credit: Langley

RF28 male. Photo credit: Langley

RF30  Photo credit: Thomton

RF30 female. Photo credit: Thomton.

RF58  Photo credit: Langley

RF58 female. Photo credit: Langley.

PK5 Male.  Photo credit: Langley.

PK5 male. Photo credit: Langley

Off-Leash Dogs: Tragically, PK5 was killed by stray dogs when he was only two weeks old. The incident occurred during the night and was therefore not witnessed by our diligent pup-sitters. Tracks, blood, and injuries to four other seals, including PK5’s mom, indicated that the mother seals did their best to protect their pups. PK4 (now tagged RF58) had over 60 bite marks on her body and developed major abscesses around her neck. She immediately received medical attention and disease screening by a NOAA veterinary team, and fortunately healed quickly. Currently she is doing well and learning how to be an independent juvenile seal. Permanent neck scars will help us identify her, but pose no risk to her survival.

This was the first known monk seal death caused by a dog and a warning to all of us that we must keep our dogs on leashes (it is State law on all beaches) and strongly encourage everyone else to do the same.

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2012 Year in Review: 2,556 individual seal sightings were reported in 2012 (many of the same animals on different days of course), or an average of 7 seals per day!  This was only possible due to the incredible efforts of the volunteer network.  The Kauai Monk Seal Conservation Hui identified 45 different seals on the beaches of Kauai during 2012, including 4 pups that were born on the beaches of Kauai in 2012.


Pupping Predictions for 2013!  Here are the predictions for 2013 provided by the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center staff.  There were several regular ‘moms’ that skipped 2012 (R015, R305, RY30, RS00, R006) so they can pup anytime and likely will pup earlier in the year rather than later. We could also be seeing some first time moms this year.

Seal ID Island Predicted Date
RQ21 Molokai 3/29
RV06 Molokai 3/31
RI15 Molokai 4/26
RK13 Kauai 5/9
RK22 Kauai 5/13
RH58 Kauai 6/4
RK30 Kauai 6/10
RO20 Oahu 6/28
RH44 Molokai 7/11
R308 Molokai 7/23
RO17 Molokai 8/5
RV16 Kahoolawe 7/7
R912 Oahu 8/9
R5AY Oahu 9/10

Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Research on Kauai:

instrumented-sealThe Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) joined the Kauai crew in January for field work that included flipper tagging TempV19 (juvenile male) who is now tagged 8HY on the left rear flipper and 8HZ on right flipper.  His official ID is now R8HY.  Also, RW02 (adult male) was instrumented with a National Geographic Critter Cam which recorded 5 days of foraging and diving behavior (see photo below).  Click on this link to learn more about this program.

http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/hawaiian_monk_seal/news_and_highlights.php#article_20130901_001

Stranding Responses to Hooked Seals:

As some of you may have heard, two seals were hooked with Ulua circle hooks in Hawaiian waters during February, one was a juvenile male RT12 here on Kauai.

RT12 was successfully de-hooked twice and released back in the wild.  Here is how it played out.  Thanks to an early report from one of our lead volunteers, we found RT12 hauled out with a circle hook in his mouth and 8 feet of fishing line trailing from it.  A team was immediately dispatched and RT12 was captured and hook removal attempted, however the hook went through the bottom side of the tongue with the barb imbedded in it.  This made either sedation or surgery necessary, therefore we loaded RT12 into a transport cage, brought him to Lihue where he spent the night at the baseyard until a veterinary team arrived from Oahu the next morning.  After sedating RT12, we found that the hook had now gone all the way through the tongue and into the left cheek.  The hook was cut in half, and easily backed out of the tongue and cheek.  The damaged tissue was swollen and slightly infected, but in good condition. It appeared that the hook was in his tongue for 24 to 36 hours, we were very fortunate to catch it so soon.

A satellite tracking tag was attached to track his dive behavior and movement.  RT12 was also given an antibiotic injection and then released.  Another lead volunteer sighted him sleeping comfortably on the rocks just south of the release location later that day.

hooked-t12To our great surprise, one week later, RT12 was discovered with another hook in his mouth!   A volunteer reported seeing 4-5’ of fine monofilament line coming from the mouth of RT12 again! Can you find the fishing line??

With the excellent assistance of many volunteers, the coordinators were authorized to mobilize an assessment team and equipment to capture, restrain, dehook and potentially transport the seal. Once we caught RT12, we found and removed one ”J” hook from his left front flipper. Unfortunately when we examined his mouth we discovered the additional line coming from his mouth with the hook out of sight, requiring sedation and surgical intervention to remove it.

Once more, RT12 was loaded into the transport cage to be watched overnight at the DLNR baseyard by the coordinators.  On the morning of Feb. 13, Dr. Michelle Barbieri arrived from Oahu and helped us transport RT12 to a local Veterinary Clinic on Kauai.  Under general anesthesia, radiographs revealed another one inch “J” hook in the esophagus.  With an endoscope, special instruments, and the expertise of two veterinarians, the hook was removed and RT12 was given antibiotics and his right rear flipper tagged T43 (he lost his T13 last year).  An hour later, RT12 was released again.

We are all very happy that this seal was discovered early and his ingested hook was removed, may he never again swallow another hook!  It is with much appreciation, that we thank all who work so hard to monitor and care for each of these endangered Hawaiian monk seals when they rest on our beaches.  It takes all of us working together for a bright future that we can share together.

hooked-seal-xrayThe other hooking had a less fortunate ending.  A juvenile male, RK68, from the Big Island died from ingesting a circle hook.  The links below provide the details:

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/20971940/monk-seal-dies-after-swallowing-fish-hook

http://www.kitv.com/news/hawaii/Officials-Monk-seal-death-was-painful-preventable/-/8905354/18425672/-/96yfrpz/-/index.html

http://www.khon2.com/content/news/developingstories/story/Hawaiian-monk-seal-dies-after-ingesting-fishing/phINPPcsMESYPmbicdj3Bw.cspx

Annual Seal Molting:  Winter is the season that most male Hawaiian monk seal’s molt.  At this time their testosterone levels are low and mature males undergo their annual molt. Both the hair and the epidermis are sloughed and replaced in this “catastrophic molt” that is similar to elephant seals, but unlike all other seals.  In the Hawaiian monk seal the actual observed molting period is about 10 days when the seal is seen ashore before and after the hair-skin sloughing period. The actual physiological process is probably much longer, and is a metabolically demanding time requiring the seal to rest long periods on shore and fast, that is why it is important to allow monk seals to rest peacefully while molting.  Also, documenting the timing and duration of molt is a good indicator for a seal’s health.

In the last two months, mature male seals R018 and RK31 molted primarily on the south shore, and for several days together at Poipu Beach Park, requiring extensive volunteer efforts to monitor and protect these seals.  Much outreach and education happened as well, while many visitors standing downwind of the seal noticed the strong “stinky” smell, due to the molt!  We so appreciate all the many essential volunteers that assisted to adjust the seal protection zones (SPZ’s) as the seals moved from the vegetation early in the morning down to the wave wash to thermoregulate in the day’s heat and back up to the vegetation line to spend the night!

Photo credit: Lynn Nowatzki

Photo credit: Lynn Nowatzki

RK31 90% molted (Molt  is estimated by % of molted skin remaining. Molt starts from the face and belly where it is rubbed off first).  Notice also circular pink wound from a fresh cookie cutter shark bite over the left hip.

Many people notice that the Hawaiian monk seals are different colors.  Freshly molted seals are a silvery gray with a lighter gray ventrally.  Some seals may be stained red by red dirt, more often seen in young juveniles that haul out to rest and hide on dirt and rock beaches. With time pelage ages to darker brown and hues of green appear around the face and flippers due to algae growth!  See in the photo below three males of various ages that are different colors due to when they molted.  RV18 is an adult that molted March 2012, RW02 is a subadult that molted Sept. 2012, and R8HY is a juvenile that just molted Jan.2013.

Photo credit: Gary Langley

Photo credit: Gary Langley

lloyd-miyashiro

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Field Report: Summer 2012

All four of our 2012 pups are successfully weaned, tagged, exploring, and mingling with other seals!

Credit: Langley

In early July, RL10, the oldest of the four, was relocated from her birth site at Aliomanu Road to the more remote sands of Waipake Beach on the northeast shore. Conveniently, her new site was near the birth sites of the other three pups! The relocation was done for RL10’s safety; Aliomanu was a hazardous location for several reasons, the main ones being proximity to the road and high human use. Mahalo nui loa to our veterinarian for flying over from Oahu to assist with this effort; to our Kupuna for her prayers, chants and elbow grease; to our volunteers for helping to execute the relocation; to vacation renters and property managers for granting us access through their properties; and to assorted members of the public for their spontaneous help. It takes a village to move a seal!

RL10’s mom, RK13, continues to be of concern. We are glad to report that she successfully molted at Mahaulepu Beach and has put on quite a few pounds since weaning RL10, but she is still thin. Now that the stressful process of molting is behind her, we’re hoping that she will start to gain more weight.

RL14’s mom, RK22, has been spotted several times on Kauai since weaning him. Her weight looks very good, she is 100% molted, and she was recently attended by adult male RK36 (of hook-swallowing fame, and still sporting his cell and satellite tracking tags) in the Anahola area.

RH58’s female pup was weaned on June 26, after 38 days of nursing; and was flipper tagged L17/L16, making her permanent ID number RL17. RH58 (a.k.a. “Rocky”) has traveled back to Oahu, her usual stomping grounds.

Credit: Langley

RK30’s male pup was weaned on July 10, after 45 days of nursing; and was flipper tagged L24/L25; giving him the permanent ID number RL24. Mom RK30 is in excellent condition and looks like she will begin her molt very soon. She was most recently observed at Salt Pond Beach Park, and was recently attended by Oahu adult male RO20 (a.k.a. “Kermit”.)

All four pups have still been observed in the Lepeuli/Waipake area, but the oldest three (RL10, RL14, and RL17) have occasionally left the area to explore new beaches to the north and south.

Juvenile female RK52 (“Rocky”’s 2011 pup) has spent most of the past year on the north shore between Ke’e and Tunnels, but has returned to her birthplace (Waipake) for her first molt. As of this writing, she is about 30% molted.

Credit: Lee

Juvenile male R6FQ began his molt several months ago, but has not completed it. Usually, monk seals only take about a week to lose their outer layer of fur and skin in their yearly “catastrophic” molt, but it’s not unheard of for a young animal to have a patchy molt like this. We are keeping a close eye on R6FQ (flipper tags 6FQ/6FO) to be sure his uneven molt is not a sign of a health concern.

It’s with sorrow that we report both the appearance and disappearance of a new seal to our island. Yearling male Temp V17 was first seen this summer on the east shore of Kauai, and given the bleach number “V17” by our DLNR specialist on June 15. On July 30, Temp V17 was found dead in the Wailua area. Local fishermen reported the carcass and graciously led us through blessings and prayers for the seal on the beach before we removed the carcass. Necropsy did not reveal a clear cause of death, but no evidence of human interaction was observed.

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It’s PUP SEASON!  Kauai is now home to four new seals!

On April 23, RK13 surprised us by giving birth near Aliomanu Road in Anahola.  You may remember RK13 from previous reports of her canal-resting behavior last December and January.   She has previously given birth on the island of Ni’ihau (in 2008), but has never pupped on Kauai.  RK13’s pup is a healthy baby girl, who nursed for 31 days and now wears flipper tags L10/L11.  Her permanent ID number is RL10.

Later that week, on April 27, RK22 gave birth on the northeast shore to a healthy boy.  RK22 has been an unsuccessful mother in the past, abandoning at least two pups, but last year she did a great job with her male pup RK54, and this year she was a good mom again with new pup RL14.  He nursed for 34 days, and is sporting flipper tags L14/L15.

Photo credit: Langley

Regular Kauai mom RH58, nicknamed “Rocky” and usually dwelling on Oahu, gave birth to a healthy girl on May 19.  As of this writing, she is still with her pup, after five weeks of nursing.

Less than a week later, regular Miloli’i mom RK30(identified by her extensive scarring around her neck and left side) gave birth to a little boy on Kauai’s northeast shore on May 25.  RK30 is still with her pup, and they have been swimming around together.

It saddens us to report the death of three-year-old male seal RA16 on April 22.  He was nicknamed “Noho” for his tendency to stay close to “home,” first near his birth site and later in Kapaa town, where he was frequently observed at Kaiakea Cove.  RA16’s necropsy revealed another suspicious death, which is still under investigation.  Noho was cremated, and his ashes will be returned to the ocean near his “home.”

Photo credit: Rogers

On May 8, adult male seal RK36 was observed resting in shallow water with fishing gear protruding from his mouth.  On May 9, our Kauai staff and volunteers were joined by a veterinary/science/management team from Oahu to respond.  RK36 was carefully corralled onto the beach and into a transport carrier.  He was driven to Lihue Airport, where a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 plane carried him to Oahu.  He spent a day resting at Waikiki Aquarium before being transported to Honolulu zoo for removal of the hook, which he had swallowed.  RK36 was in the best possible hands, with two internationally recognized veterinarians on his team.  X-rays showed the veterinary team the exact location and orientation of the hook, and they were able to remove it without surgery.   RK36 had an infection in the area of the hook (the left side of his throat), as well as pneumonia.  He spent 10 more days in recovery at the Waikiki Aquarium, where he eventually perked up and even ate some fish in his pool.  On May 21, he traveled back to Kauai and was released at Salt Ponds Beach Park, wearing two tracking tags (one that transmits a LOT of data to cell phone towers, and one that transmits less data to a satellite even when RK36 is out of “cell phone” range).  His tags showed us that he was travelling around the south and east shores of Kauai, and diving deep enough to show us that his lungs were fully functional.  He has been observed by volunteers and staff at Poipu Beach Park and Palama Beach since his release.  This was a true team effort!  RK36 wouldn’t have made it without the help of the public (who reported the sighting), volunteers (who helped transport him on the Kauai end and helped care for him on the Oahu end), veterinarians, NOAA/DLNR staff, and the fantastic U.S. Coast Guard!

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Field Report: April/May 2011

(Photo credit: Langley)

 

It’s pup season!  Kauai is now home to three brand-new Hawaiian monk seals!

Our first pup of the year was born to RK22, a female known for abandoning two of her previous pups.  This time around, RK22 was a very good seal mom!  She was protective of her pup and successfully nursed HIM for 34 days!  That’s right, PK1 (Pup Kauai #1 of the year) is a BOY!   If his early life is any indication, he will be a very strong seal!  RK22 took PK1 out past the reef, into open water several times when he was only three weeks old.  This is very unusual behavior – scientists and managers were in suspense waiting to see if he would return safely – but he did, every time!

The second Kauai pup of the year was born to RH58, a female who usually lives on Oahu, but returns to Kauai to give birth each year.  PK2 is a GIRL!  She was born just a few yards away from RK22 and PK1, and is quite a bit larger than PK1, even though she is two days younger.

Both of these pups have already been weaned.  Hawaiian monk seal moms only stay with their pups for 5-7 weeks.  After that, it’s up to the pup to learn how to be a seal!

The time between weaning and one year of age is the most vulnerable time in a young seal’s life.   This is the time when the animal either learns how to be a wild seal, or learns something else.  Newly weaned seals are very curious, and are often seen “socializing” with rocks, logs and coconuts, as well as other nearby seals.   If people approach a young seal at this age, it is very possible for the seal to become habituated to humans, and even conditioned to approach his greatest threats, including boats, nets, and other fishing gear.  If you see a young seal, or ANY marine mammal, it is important to stay far enough away to avoid changing the animal’s natural behavior.

Kauai’s third pup was born to RK30, a very distinctive female seal with extensive scars.  She has one entanglement scar around her neck, and a large scar on her left side of unknown origin.  RK30’s pup was born on a very remote beach, and we have not yet determined its gender.

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