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Archive for the ‘RH58’ Category

Monk Seal Monday #172: Welcome PK3

Late last week, regular “pupper” RK28 gave birth to Kauai’s third pup of the year. Here’s a photo of RK28 and her pup hours after birth.

PC: J. Thomton

RK28 was first identified as an adult in 2003, so she’s easily a minimum of 23 years old. She’s birthed eight known pups, but there have likely been others, too. In 2008, RK28 pupped on Oahu. In 2013, she was documented with a pup on Niihau. In 2014, she pupped for the first known time on Kauai. Then, starting in 2018, she’s pupped every year here. So, she pups around.

When you get to be RK28’s age, you’ve experienced some things, and over the years, she’s made headlines in these digital pages.

In 2021, she ranked as out number one reported Hawaiian monk seal on Kauai, especially impressive because the number of days she spent with her pup last year were not included in the total. (Read more about that here.)

In 2018, RK28 was involved in a “pup-switching” event, in which pups from nearby mothers somehow get switched. In this case, there were three moms/pups on the same beach at the same time. After numerous switches, the result was RH58, also known as Rocky, started showing aggression toward her pup. After numerous attempts to re-unite her with her pup, he was taken and successfully reared on Hawaii Island at Ke Kai Ola. (Read more about that here and here.)

In 2016, RK28 was involved in a male mobbing incident that left her with significant scarring on her back. (Read more about that here.)

In 2014, sadly, RK28 was involved in a horrific dog attack that left her two-week-old pup dead. (Read more about that here.)

Luckily, RK28’s recent pups are known to still be hanging around Kauai. They include: RKA4, RL28, RM28, and RP28. This year, both RM28 and RP28 were involved in hooking events.

This year’s pup has already been identified as male. He’s on the thin side, so it’s good to see him nursing, as in this photo.

PC: K. Rogers
PC: K. Rogers

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Monk Seal Monday #171: Rocky Weans Pup

The male Hawaiian monk seal pup known as Koalani has been relocated from the busy Kaimana Beach in Waikīkī to a remote Oahu shoreline. The move was made, according to NOAA, to “…allow Koalani to grow up wild and in the company of other monk seals, rather than surrounded by thousands of people every day during the most impressionable period of his life.”

Koalani is the 14th pup of RH58, also known as “Rocky,” and the second pup she’s birthed on Oahu. Her other 12 pups were born on Kauai. Rocky weaned Koalani on the evening of August 18th. During the transfer process, Koalani was given his permanent NOAA ID of RQ58. His flipper tags read Q58 (left) and Q59 (right). A satellite tag was also attached to his back to allow NOAA to monitor his movements over the coming weeks. When he was released at the new location, he headed to the water and began exploring the area and is reported to be doing well.

All images courtesy: DLNR

With the translocation of Koalani, state officials ended their 24-hour-a-day presence of DOCARE officers. According to a DLNR press release, the unprecedented law enforcement visibility started on August 3, after DLNR leadership responded to concerns about the safety of the seals and people. In July, a swimmer encountered the seals in the water near the Natatorium, and the protective mother seal bit her and caused minor injuries. The incident highlighted the real risks facing both the animals and curious humans who intentionally or inadvertently got too close.

During the two-week-long DOCARE presence on the beach and in the water, officers did not cite anyone for a violation termed “obstruction of a government operation.”

DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla stated, “Our men and women responded in force knowing that protection of our natural resources and public safety are part and parcel of DOCARE’s core mission. We haven’t calculated all the personnel costs, but we estimate the total time devoted to overwatch of the monk seals to be more than 500 manhours.”

The statement further shared that officers enforced a 50-yard cordon on the beach and in the ocean during the operation, which mirrors NOAA guidance for people to stay at least 150-feet away from resting or swimming seals. While no citations were issued, they did have to shoo away several swimmers who got too close to the animals.

All images courtesy: DLNR

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Monk Seal Monday #169: Meet RQ60

After a whopping 50 days of nursing, RB00 weaned PK1 on July 15th. A few days later, she was bleach-marked V6. The next day, she was flipper-tagged Q60 (left flipper) and Q61 (right flipper).

This process usually takes about five minutes and includes a brief restraint while plastic flipper tags are applied in the webbing of the rear flippers. Her official ID is RQ60. The R indicates that she is part of the Main Hawaiian Island population and the Q indicates she was born in 2022, and 60 is her unique ID. During the tagging process RQ60’s length and girth were also measured, and a microchip was injected under the skin on her right flank.

Now, some interesting facts:

  • Average nursing days for “Kauai” mothers runs 42 days.
  • RB00’s longest nursing record on Kauai was 54 days in 2019. Pup was a male, RL08.
  • RB00 nursed RQ60 for 50 days.
  • At tagging, RL08‘s axillary girth measurement (around his body below his fore flippers) measured 143 centimeters. His length from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail measured 145 centimeters long.
  • At tagging, RQ60’s axillary girth measured 130 centimeters and her length came in at an astonishing 152 centimeters.

So, RB00 continues to produce some super-sized weaners.

Since tagging, RQ60 continues to hang out at her natal beach, spending more and more time in the water, investigating what the sea offers, including a few sea cucumbers. This is very typical behavior for Hawaiian monk seal weaners, as they figure out what’s good to eat in the sea.

What’s more, RQ60 has been hanging out with other young seals, including her older sister, two-year-old RM36.

On Oahu, RQ60’s grandmother RH58 (“Rocky”) has been making headlines again. She pupped on busy Waikiki beach a few weeks ago and, unfortunately, there have been various interactions with swimmers, including an altercation resulting in injuries to one swimmer. It’s always a good to steer clear of mother monk seals and their pups–give them extra wide berth in the water.

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Monk Seal Monday #168: Announcing PK2

Kauai’s second pup (PK2) of 2022 arrived on June 26th to mom R400, known to spend much of her time around Niihau (but she once made an appearance on Oahu) and tends to give birth on remote beaches on Kauai.

So far, so good. Pup is growing and active. S/he’s staying in the same basic area and starting to swim for longer periods and around mom in shallow water.

PC: M. Olry

Meanwhile, on Oahu, one of the most well-known Hawaiian monk seals–RH58 (“Rocky”)–gave birth to her 14th pup at Waikiki. So, the 22-year-old won’t be making a visit to Kaua’i to give birth this year.

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Last week, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) reported the fifth Hawaiian monk seal pup born on Oahu this year. Lesley Macpherson of the DLNR Division of State Parks captured the birth on video.

DLNR also reported new mom RH92 gave birth to her first-born pup, PO4, on or around April 14. RH92 was born to RK22 in May 2016. Shortly after weaning, a fisherman witnessed a dog attack her. Luckily, the puncture wounds weren’t deep; however, she was given antibiotics to stave off any possible infection. Then, she started feeding off scraps at a boat harbor, so she was translocated to a remote beach elsewhere on the island. Except that she returned to the boat harbor within a couple weeks. Luckily, an outreach campaign and regular law enforcement patrols reduced the amount of fishing scraps, and RH92 left the immediate area, foraging more widely. In November 2018, at the young age of two-and-a-half, RH92 made the open-ocean crossing to Oahu where she has been regularly sighted ever since.

On Kauai, there are several females who have pupped on the island in recent years:

  • RB00: A recent regular “pupper” on Kauai, RB00’s due date is predicted to be May 1. She was born on Kauai but spends her days on/off Hawaii Island and typically rolls onto a Kauai beach on the north shore a day or two before giving birth.
  • R400, also a regular pupper on Kauai. She pupped at Polihale last year in mid-June.
  • The prolific RH58 took last year off and did not pup. At this point, she has not been confirmed to be pregnant.
  • RK22 last known pupping event was 2017. She’s rarely sighted, presumably spending her days at Niihau.
  • RK28, another traveler, she has not been sighted recently.
RB00

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Field Report: May 2021

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 209 seal sightings this month. This included 28 individually identified seals.

  • May: 209
  • April: 155
  • March: 137
  • February: 119
  • January: 125
  • December: 119
  • November: 133
  • October: 152
  • September: 152
  • August: 198
  • July: 120
  • June: 81
  • May: 147

New:

  • Flipper tagged RH58’s (Rocky) pup from 2020 as RM58, and gave morbillivirus vaccine.
  • Return of visitors causing increased disturbance to seals across the island. More signs put at racks at Poipu beach park to manage SRA without ropes and volunteers deployed.

Updates:

  • RB00 and new pup KP1 continue to thrive. 
  • 3-year-old male R1NI washed ashore dead on the south shore. Carcass was fresh code 2, collected and frozen on Kauai, then shipped to Oahu for necropsy. Gross necropsy did not reveal much, awaiting histopathology lab results.
  • Subadult male seal RK58 was returned from KKO after 6 weeks of rehab and released on March 26. He was treated at KKO for likely dog attack injuries that resulted in significant weight loss and infected puncture wounds.

Morbillivirus Vaccination: RM58 received the initial vaccine this month.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

  • Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.
  • Logged all seal sightings for PIFSC database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

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Photo credit: Ke Kai Ola

For the past two years, a very large seal with the flipper tags B00 has made her way across the archipelago to give birth where she herself was born to the well-known RH58, a.k.a. Rocky, in 2007. This is RB00. She was sighted as recently as last week on Hawaii Island. Her predicted due date is two days away–Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

Last year, RB00 gave birth on Kauai’s north shore to a monk seal still known as PK1 and who is also bleach-marked V00. No flipper-tags have yet been applied to PK1 due to COVID restrictions; however, she should be tagged soon. She is predictably found at her north shore birth beach and has a preference for hauling out very high on the beach tucked into vegetation, often completely hidden from view.

The year before, in 2019, RB00 gave birth to RL08. Because RB00 tends to pack on the pounds during her pregnancy, she can often nurse for a few days or even weeks longer than other female monk seals. RL08 continues to thrive and is much larger than most two-year-olds, thanks to the head-start his mom gave him from two extra weeks of nursing (54 days total) when he was a pup. RL08 is most commonly seen on the north and east shores of Kauai and was sighted 47 different times in 2020.

In 2018, RB00 gave birth on Lanai. In 2016, she delivered a stillborn pup on Maui. So there’s really no telling where she’ll decide to pup this year–Hawaii Island, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai. With this long-distance swimmer, all are possibilities.

To read more about RB00, click here.

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Here are some year-end stats. Like everything for 2020, remember that these numbers are greatly influenced due to COVID-19, which paused the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui’s volunteer program.

Grand sightings total: 

  • 2,005 or 5.5/day monk seal sightings on Kauai in 2020.
  • 3,154 or 8.9/day in 2019.
  • 3,253 or 8.9/day in 2018.
  • 3,621 or 9.9/day in 2017.
  • 3,236 or 8.9/day in 2016.
  • 3,321 or 9.1/day in 2015.
  • 2,516 or 6.9/day in 2014.

Kauai population: 

  • 67 unique individual seals sighted on Kauai in 2020.
  • 67 in 2019.
  • 60 in 2018.
  • 60 in 2017.
  • 56 in 2016.
  • 53 in 2015.
  • 47 in 2014.

Births: 3 total born on Kauai in 2020.

  • V00 (bleach-marked) born to RB00 in March.
  • V02 (bleach-marked) born RH58 to in August.
  • RM28 (flipper-tagged) born to RK28 in August.

Mortalities: 6 confirmed mortalities in 2020.

  • R313 and fetus: adult female with near full term fetus, necropsy pending.
  • RJ36: 3-year-old male, hook ingestion, necropsy pending.
  • RKA6: 2-year old female, mummified condition, cause of death unknown.
  • RL52: 1-year-old male, necropsy pending, case under investigation.
  • Weaned female pup, ID unknown, necropsy pending, case under investigation.
  • Subadult seal, sex and ID unknown, mummified condition, cause of death unknown, case under investigation.

Niihau Seals (likely): sighted a minimum of 8 new seals in 2020, but likely more as several new untagged seals had no markings or scars so no temporary IDs were given.

  • 8 in 2020.
  • 5 in 2019.
  • 9 in 2018.
  • 12 in 2017.
  • 6 in 2016.
  • 14 in 2015.

Displacements: 4 total displacements occurred.

  • 3 displacements from unsafe or unsuitable locations (boat ramps, beach roads, sidewalks, etc).
  • 1 displacements from the Poipu keiki pool. 

Vaccination for morbillivirus efforts: 

Due to COVID-19, fieldwork was minimal and no seals were vaccinated. Plans are in place to resume vaccinations in 2021.

Bleach marking effort: 

6 bleach marks were applied.

Stranding Responses in 2020: 

One monk seal stranding response and 6 carcass retrievals:

  • RK13 – gillnet wrapped around muzzle was removed with a pole mounted cutting tool. 

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Field Report: September

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 152 seal sightings this month. This included 22 individually identified seals.

  • September: 152
  • August: 198
  • July: 120
  • June: 81
  • May: 147
  • April: 117
  • March: 200
  • February: 264
  • January: 319
  • December: 180
  • November: 223
  • October: 258
  • September: 203

New:

·       One-year old male monk seal, RL52, was found dead on the east shore of Kauai.

·       An adult seal was harassed and chased into the water by three off-leash dogs at Kealia Beach. The seal left the beach uninjured. DOCARE is investigating.      

·       Adult male R332, a Niihau seal, was sighted by the PMRF crew on Kauai for the first time ever.

Updates:

·       RH58 (Rocky) weaned her female pup, PK2, on Sept 15 after 39 days of nursing. The pup is fat, healthy and thriving. Since we are unable to flipper tag pups at this time, due to COVID-19, a bleach mark of V02 was applied to her fur.

·       RK28 (KC) weaned her female pup, PK3 on Sept 18 after 40 days of nursing. A bleach mark of V03 was applied to her fur. The mom and pup spent much of this time near large groups of campers and fishers within 100 feet of the pair, fishing sometimes as close as 10 feet to the seals. Signage was clearly posted around the seals; however, no direct outreach was conducted due to COVID. The seals appeared unbothered by the activity and there were no reports of human/seal interactions, aggression, or disturbance.

·       Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, our new methods of monitoring continue:

o   Weekly surveys of key beaches by staff;

o   DAR staff conducting weekly island wide Creel Surveys;

o   PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos; and

o   Requesting that people who call the hotline to report seals assist us by sending several photos and setting-up SRA signs or sticks. 

·       The weaned pup, PK1, is ranging more widely. A report was made of young boys throwing small rocks at her. Lately, she is much more aware and wary of humans on the beach.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

·       Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.

·       Logged all seal sightings for PIFSC database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

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Monk Seal Monday #109: Weaner Update

In the good news department, all three of Kauai’s monk seal pups born this year are female. The more females in the population, the greater the potential for a boost in population numbers–super important with endangered species. Additionally, all three are no longer “pups” but “weaners,” as NOAA refers to Hawaiian monk seal pups after their mothers wean them.

The year’s first-born was PK1, born to RB00. PK1 nursed for 45 days. PK2, born to RH58, nursed for 39 days. And PK3, born to RK28, nursed for 40 days.

Due to COVID-19, none of the weaners have been flipper tagged. That also means none have been measured for girth and length. However, here’s an anecdotal assessment of their size: PK2 is fat. PK3 is fatter. PK1 is still the fattest, and she has actually slimmed down some since she was weaned in April.

Instead of flipper-tagging, the use of “bleach tags” will be used to identify the weaners. PK1 has been bleached V00. PK2 has been bleached V02. In the coming days, it’s hoped to bleach PK3 as V03.

As the oldest, V00 has already started moving around quite a bit these days–between the north and east sides of the island. V02 and V03 are still sticking close to their natal beaches; however, V03 has just started to explore a bit more in the past week. During this time, all three are learning how to feed themselves.

It’s not unusual for recently-weaned seals to approach other seals in the hopes of finding one with the milk-producing gifts that their mothers once provided them. Typically, this results in a scuffle between weaner and the second seal, sand and water flying. However, last week, when PK3 approached PK2, no scuffle ensued. No milk ensued, either. But, for about 30 minutes, PK2 showed extreme patience in allowing PK3 to nudge, push, and nip her in the hopes of a little nourishing milk. Here are some photos from that interaction.

PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton

The past several years, R400 birthed late in the summer along Na Pali coast; however, there have been no reports of her this year. Surprisingly she was sighted on Oahu for the first time ever this past July, and she did not look pregnant. So, maybe she’s taking a year off.

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