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Archive for the ‘RH92’ Category

Field Report: Summer

2017 pups are all weaned and tagged!

Monk Seal Pup RJ22-2All weaned pups this year are males (all three last year were females, born to the same moms at same locations!). RK30’s pup born along the Na Pali coast, is a nice big healthy weaner, now known as RJ36 (tagged J36/J37). We are grateful to Captain Tara Leota and Kauai Sea Riders for assistance to monitor and deliver the Kauai team to tag this pup.

RK22 weaned her pup RJ22 (tagged J22/J23) on the northeast coast and was found one morning entangled in in monofilament fishing line. Fortunately, while we were monitoring,  he was able to free himself from the fishing line. This demonstrates why it is so important to check the seals regularly–and to pick up marine debris whenever possible.

The last pup to wean, was RO28’s pup now known as RJ28 (tagged J28/J29). This pup remains on his natal beach while RJ22 has already started exploring more of the coast, moving south.

Seals of Concern Updates

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Photo credit: Miyashiro.

RH92, juvenile female was translocated from Kapaa to PMRF in March. We are pleased to report that even though she returned to the Fuji Beach area she is no longer logging nor feeding on fish scraps in the canal. She continues to forage normally along the east coast and just finished her first molt.

Another yearling female, RH38, is getting ready to molt along the north shore, and we are monitoring her closely as her weight is low.

Unusual hook discovery

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Photo credit: Thomton 

An unknown, untagged, clean adult male seal showed up on the south shore with a large J-hook stuck in his back. A second J-hook was attached with a metal leader and there was 17 feet of very heavy (400 lb) monofilament trailing. Coordinators were able to cut away all of monofilament and the dangling second hook.

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Photo credit: Thomton

The remaining hook embedded in the skin is non-life threatening and will eventually come out on its own, however we will closely monitor this seal and intervene if necessary. Fishermen have informed us that the gear that hooked the seal is used to catch marlin by trolling behind a fast moving boat.

Meanwhile, in Waikiki

One of Kauai’s longtime breeding females, RH58 or “Rocky,” pupped on at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki on Oahu–and instantly became the darling of beachgoers. The mom and pup, a female, provided NOAA staff and volunteers with additional concern when they swam inside the Natatorium by way of an opening in its crumbling seawall. Eventually, once RH58 weaned her fat and healthy pup, the pup was relocated to a more remote location for her safety. As we’ve discussed here many times, young seals are most vulnerable right after weaning. This is a time they spend exploring their natal beach, learning what’s edible and what isn’t. At this age, they are quite curious and social, approaching other seals and, even, people on the beach and in the water as they go about figuring out how to survive as a seal on their own. For her safety, scientists decided to move RH58’s pup to a more remote location.

And at Midway Atoll

A mother monk seal bit a woman–an employee with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–several times while the woman was swimming in the only section of water open for recreational use. The monk seal approached the woman from an adjacent beach where she had pupped. The woman remained on Midway to recover from her injuries. While this incident is extremely unfortunate, it is a good reminder that monk seals are wild animals and that each seal is an individual, each reacting differently to what might seem to be similar situations.

 

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Field Report: May 2017

Busy Month De-hooking Seals.

Juvenile male seal RG22 was found with a small hook again on May 1. A team was quickly assembled to capture and attempt hook removal. The original small J hook was no longer visible, however a rusty medium sized circle hook was incidentally found wedged inside the left lower jaw, which required sedation for removal. RG22 was transported to the DLNR base yard and held overnight to await arrival of an Oahu veterinary team to assist. He was sedated and the rusty hook was removed. Radiographs revealed that the smaller hook and was no longer present.

RG22 hook(ValBloy)3

PC: V. Bloy.

On May 11, hooked adult female RK90 was found with large male, R336 at Ahukini Cove. Due to her large size, a skilled NOAA seal handler from Oahu joined the Kauai team. The team isolated and captured RK90 with crowding boards, removed the large circle hook and immediately released her to re-join R336.

RICOH IMAGING

PC: M. Miyashiro.

 

Seals of Concern Updates.

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Photo credit: L. Nowatzki.

Subadult male, RN02, continues to interact with people in the water, but the level of interaction seems to have decreased somewhat in May. Fortunately we are seeing that he socializes with seals extensively (and the odd turtle!). He has not made contact with people yet. This is a good reminder to remember NOT to engage with monk seals in the water.

RH92, juvenile female, translocated to the West Side, returned to Lihi canal within two weeks, however we are pleased to report that she is foraging in a wider range along the east coast and spending less time in the canal where fish scrap dumping appears to have decreased due to increased outreach and law enforcement patrols.

 

Seals Heal in Amazing Ways!

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Photo credit: M. Miyashiro.

Adult female, RK13 was found on April 26 with a large wound to her face, with tears to the skin around her nose, leaving her left nostril (nare) no longer visible. Close inspection revealed a series of triangular cuts, indicating a shark bite. Seal wounds close up and fill in by a process called tissue granulation. We expected RK13 to have extensive scarring and possibly the loss of a nare. Amazingly one month later, her face was completely healed with only a few small scars and both nares patent and normal! Our NOAA veterinarian was kept informed of the wounds and healing progress to determine if intervention was indicated. Though wildlife wounds often look disturbing, wild animal medicine demonstrates how resilient wild animals are.

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More new seals for Kauai.

On March 28 a juvenile male seal was first sighted on the North Shore. His only remarkable scar was a small cookie cutter shark bite on his left mid side. He quickly became a regular, so a team was put together to tag him with flipper tags 3CD and 3CE, making his official ID R3CD. He also received a morbillivirus vaccine.

V76(Thomton)

PC: Thomton

A new adult female seal with a small pit scar on her right mid side also started to appear on the rocks at Brenneke’s beach, and continues to rest there regularly. She was bleach marked V76, and received her first morbillivirus vaccination.

RG22 dehooked.

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PC: Thomton

On April 16, visitors snorkeling at Mahaulepu called the hotline to report that they had cut free a seal entangled on coral. They sent a video that identified it as juvenile male, RG22. The next day, he was sighted at Palamas, so a team was assembled to respond. Fortunately, even sporting the biggest hook we’ve ever come across, the team was able to cut and remove the hook that pierced the left corner of his mouth. The fishing gear was a slide bait rig used for ulua fishing and included the bait that looked like a Hawaiian white eel or Conger eel, known locally as Tohei.

RH92 returns to Lihi Canal.

RH92 (Dennis Fujimoto)

PC: Fujimoto

After wildlife biologists and veterinarians relocated 10-month-old RH92 on March 30th from the Lihi Canal in Kapa‘a to a beach on the island’s west side, we’d hoped she would stay away from the canal. Unfortunately, she returned to the canal along with an adult seal (RK13). Together they’ve been seen feeding on small fish in the manmade waterway along with discarded fish parts. The return of RH92 to Lihi is prompting stepped-up public awareness and outreach and potentially enforcement of littering laws for fishermen who dispose of fish parts in the water.

Seals of concern.

RN02, subadult male, has demonstrated increased curiosity of people, pursuing swimmers and following the public up the beach. He is also interacting with scuba divers, taking fish from skin divers at Koloa Landing. He then hauled out on the boat ramp, undisturbed by divers walking past him to enter and exit the water. RN02 was displaced from the ramp using crowding boards. RN02’s curiosity also proved dangerous with marine debris, found around his neck, which he later escaped on his own. We hope this is just a part of reaching sexual maturity, but we are considering ways to curb his behaviors.

Another incident of concern made the evening news (click here) in which a dog owner should have moved away from the seal, but instead engaged the seal, and endangered both his pet dog (on a leash) and the seal.

Kauai Vaccinations have begun for 2017.

This year we will include females (except those within two months of pupping) in our morbillivirus vaccination program. This includes 18 males and 26 females. Coordinators will be busy trying to find these seals to give initial vaccines and boosters 3-5 weeks later, so we appreciate all your sightings!

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Field Report: Winter 2017

The winter of 2017 has turned out to be busy for the Kauai HMS Conservation Hui.

RICOH IMAGING

Photo credit: Miyashiro

In January a new juvenile female seal was sighted. She has what appears to be a healed cookie cutter shark bite behind her left eye. She also has a pit scar on her right mid side. She was originally sighted on Ni’ihau and is officially R347.

In February five more juvenile female seals were sighted. Four of them were bleach marked and/or flipper tagged, so we can track and monitor them, especially since several of them are fairly clean of scars or natural bleach marks can often be used to identify untagged seals.

One with a faint scar behind her left eye was entered into the monk seal registry as R351 and bleach marked V73. A week later, using her bleach mark to identify her, she turned up on Molokai.

A youngish female popped up on the east shore several times, with a distinguishable natural bleach mark on the tips of her left fore flipper. She was flipper tagged and is now 1NS.

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Photo credit: Miyashiro

On the west shore, a juvenile female was bleached V75 and flipper tagged as 1KM.

Two more female yearlings were found on the west shore, one of which was bleached as V2.

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Photo credit: Thomton

In February, RN02, a subadult male who was translocated from Big Island to Niihau in 2013 after he repeatedly interacted aggressively with swimmers, was sighted with blood near his mouth. A visual examination revealed a small hook and approximately six inches of monofilament fishing line along his gum line. Consultation was made with a marine mammal vet, and it was determined the hook would likely loosen and fall out on its own. Thus, no intervention was deemed necessary at the time.

Sadly, a well-known Kauai seal was found dead in late February. R4DP, a female, was approximately 15 years old. She was first tagged on Kauai in 2008. That same year she was flown to Oahu for examination for suspected ingestion of a fish hook. Upon examination, no hook was found, and she was returned to Kauai and released. Unfortunately, after necropsy, it was determined R4DP’s injuries were inconsistent with natural causes. Thus, as a marine mammal protected by the Endangered Species Act, her death is being investigated by law enforcement officials.

This is the 11th “suspicious death” of a monk seal since 2009, and the first since 2014.  Anyone having information related to the death of R4DP or any other suspected monk seal death should call the NOAA OLE hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at (808) 873-3990 or 643-DLNR.

2016 Pup Update:

Weaned pup updates RH80 continues to appear on the north and east coasts of Kauai, looking healthy. Also, for the first time since she was flipper tagged last summer, RH38 popped up on the North Shore, also looking healthy.

RICOH IMAGING

Photo credit: Miyashiro

RH92 is looking good, too, although she turned up with a cookie cutter shark bite on the right side of her head. Though it is the usual 3” circular wound, it appears very large on her small head and looks deep. Fortunately the bite missed vital structures of her eye and ear. Monk seals have an amazing capacity to heal from large wounds on their own. RH92 is healing fine, and the wound will likely shrink to a small pit scar. Of greater concern for RH92 is that she was found for the first time hanging out near a small boat landing, foraging and eating a fish, likely scraps tossed out by fishermen. This is a good reminder not to throw fish and scraps into the water, especially if a seal is present.

Lihi Canal

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Field Report: October

Logged seal sightings:
October: 208
September: 222
August: 230
July: 414
June: 356
May: 263


Updates on Pups.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

Weaned female pups RH80 and RH92 continue to explore more widely and then return to their natal beach. As you may have read last month, RH92 was bitten by a loose dog on the beach, but fortunately her wounds were minor and she quickly healed. The same dog was observed unleashed and went after RH92 again, however did not make contact with the seal. DOCARE was notified and will follow up. Another dog was found running at-large without its owner and was transferred to the Kauai Humane Society (KHS). Hawaii state laws forbid dogs being off leash, including service dogs. A dog off leash is a danger to itself and a seal, due to bite wounds and spread of disease. We continue to track and monitor these vulnerable, naive weaned seals as much as possible.


Other Seal Events.

  • R339 and RG22 both molted. To learn more about molting in monk seals, click here.
  • RK28, observed with large mobbing wounds and abscesses on her back, continues to heal. For more information about male aggression in monk seals, click here.
  • RG22 was bleach marked V22. To learn more about why and how we bleach mark monk seals, click here.

NOAA Fisheries “Species in the Spotlight: Hawaiian Monk Seals.”
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The latest Spotlight on Monk Seals update was released from NOAA Fisheries and is available here.


Voices of our Youth to Save Hawaiian Monk Seals.

Malama Learning Center has completed a year-long project developed through work with Wai’anae Searider Productions on protecting the Hawaiian Monk Seal. They focused on using voices of our youth to get key messages out about ways we can respect and be better neighbors with our native Hawaiian monk seal. The youth are featured because they speak from their hearts and they can perhaps be the best messengers to reach their peers as well as adults.

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The campaign is called: Seal ‘n’ Danger. Mahalo to Kapolei High School students for creating that clever name. You can access all elements of the project on the

new website. The website contains facts and important information on ways people can help. It also houses five new videos featuring students from O’ahu and Moloka’i, as well as scientists and resource managers. And it is beautifully illustrated with artwork courtesy of local wildlife artist, Patrick Ching.

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Field Report: September

Logged seal sightings:
September: 222
August: 230
July: 414
June: 356
May: 263

Pup Update:
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Photo credit: M. Miyashiro.

On September 21, some fishermen contacted DOCARE (Hawaii state Dept. of Conservation and Resources Enforcement), because a loose dog had attacked a small monk seal. An officer immediately responded, found the dog’s owner, and issued a citation. Our Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui team found the seal, one of this year’s weaners, with multiple puncture wounds. The following day RH92 was given antibiotics and, thankfully, resights of her show the small punctures did not become infected and have healed.

Vaccinating Seals:
Since June, Hawaiian monk seal coordinators have 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. Our goal was to vaccinate 20 seals on Kauai, focusing only on males and juveniles. Studies have not been conducted on possible side-effects the vaccine may have on a developing fetus, so sexually mature females were excluded. We were successful, with the valuable aid of many volunteers assisting to find seals, to fully vaccinate 19 seals! The program is now on hold as the vaccines have expired and the manufacturer is not currently producing more. We are in discussion with the company and hope to continue vaccination efforts in the near future.

Hookings:
On Oahu, two seals were hooked this month. On Rabbit Island a yearling seal was sedated to remove an external hook from its mouth. The other seal, a large adult male had ingested a hook, so he was captured, and the hook was surgically removed. He is recovering well in captive care. Amazingly, this is the 2nd time this male seal has had a hook surgically removed from his stomach!

In Other Marine Mammals News:

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Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hawai`i Island : In September, a large male false killer whale (FKW) was found live stranded on the south end of the Big Island. This endangered Hawaiian insular FKW died shortly afterwards and the Hawaii team lead by Tom Elliot organized to pull this very large heavy whale out of the surf and onto the beach to collect the carcass for necropsy.

Oahu: On September 17, a lone melon-headed whale calf was found swimming in Kailua Bay, Oahu. The calf, approximately 5 1/2 feet long, was likely still associated with its mother and from visual assessment showed signs of malnutrition. After careful consideration of all factors related to the case at hand and previous cases, it was determined that any rescue intervention would not be successful. To read the full story click here.

Turtles, Turtles, Turtles:

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Photo credit: NOAA

This summer there has been an increase in the numbers of green sea turtles coming to rest on Kauai’s beaches. Visitors and volunteers have reported seeing up to 12 turtles on the Poipu beach, resting at night and departing at dawn. Many of these sea turtles also feed on the seaweed “limu” on the shallow rocks and may come ashore to bask on the beaches during the day. While sea turtles are not our primary concern, we do want to prevent these threatened turtles from being disturbed and to help the life guards to instruct visitors to give turtles respectful space to rest and forage.

Monk Seal Recovery News:
The Toxoplasmosis and At-large Cat Technical Working Group met October 7 to review technical findings on the impacts of toxoplasmosis on wildlife and methods to disseminate accurate information to the public. To learn more about toxoplasmosis, please read this article from Honolulu Magazine and this one from Smithsonian.com.

 

 

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RH92 (formerly known as PK2) has been busy. She now has a bleach mark of V92 that will make identifying her from a distance much easier. She’s also beginning to travel up and down the coast, going several miles one direction and equally far in the other direction. This makes her much harder for our volunteers to find! She’s been observed flipping rocks and checking things out just like a wild seal should. She’s also been observed with sea cucumber slime on her face. Not something that likely will continue as she discovers more deletable tidbits from the sea!

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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