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Field Report: Spring 2013

It’s Hawaiian monk seal pupping season!

Pupping season on Kauai has arrived with the first pup born to R028!  This 7 year old female, who spends most of her time on Oahu, recently returned to Kauai and delivered a healthy male seal pup on May 11th.  Generally, Hawaiian monk seals are known to return to their natal beach to have their pups.  In this case, RO28 was born on Kauai to RK06 in 2006 and is now a first time mom.  We are predicting several more pups on Kauai and as of May 22nd, 11 pups have been born in the Main Hawaiian Islands in 2013.

With pupping season in full swing, we are in need of new volunteers to assist with pup-sitting in addition to our regular duties of responding to seal haul-outs and strandings.  If you are interested, or know of other people that may be able to assist as volunteers, please let us know!!  Please call us at the Kauai Monk Seal Hotline (808) 651-7668 or email us at kauaiseals@gmail.org.

 Hooked Seals:

Photo credit: Mary Frances Miyashiro

Photo credit: Mary Frances Miyashiro

Hooked seal reports have continued on Kauai, with 6 successful de-hookings already this year.  RK13 was recently hooked as seen in this photo.  Kauai Marine Mammal Response Network staff and volunteers were able to cut free 50 feet of heavy monofilament line that posed an entanglement risk leaving the non-lethal hook lodged in the corner of her mouth.  Meanwhile, an Oahu de-hooking team was making preparations for a trip to Kauai, however, fortuitously RK13 dislodged the ulua circle hook on her own.

If you see a seal on a beach, please look closely for fishing line in or around the mouth and of course for hooks.  As always, please use binoculars and do not disturb the seal.  Often the hook is inside the oral cavity and the only evidence is a small amount of monofilament fishing line trailing from the mouth.  If you suspect the presence of a hook or line, please take photos and email them to kauaiseals@gmail.com.

Recently, the New York Times Magazine ran a front-page feature article about Hawaiian monk seals, it’s a must read.  Here’s the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/magazine/who-would-kill-a-monk-seal.html?_r=0

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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: January 2012

A juvenile male seal (2-3 years old, about 200 pounds) was found dead on the northeast shore of Kauai on the evening of January 3, 2012. The seal was untagged, and believed to be a seal that volunteers have observed before. NOAA, DLNR/DAR and DoCARE responded on the scene.  NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement was also engaged immediately, and is investigating this case.  The necropsy was conducted on the morning of January 4, and revealed that this was a suspicious death.  We cannot rule out foul play in this case.  Disclosing any additional information about this case could compromise the investigation.  Anyone having information related to any of the recent monk seal deaths should call 1-855-DLNR-TIP.  See our “News” section for details on the reward for more information.

Hawaiian monk seal RK13

Photo credit: Miyashiro

RK13 (adult female, skin lesions since 2008, blind left eye, recent shark bites and canal-resting behavior) is doing really well; she is healed up and moving normally!

Hawaiian monk seal RK54

Photo credit: Miyashiro.

RK54 (juvenile male, born at Larsen’s in 2011 to RK22) hauled out in the Aliomanu area on 1/11 with a large ulua hook in the left side of his mouth, with a trailing leader and fish head attached.  We had a successful de-hooking, and a great training/learning experience for staff and volunteers.   RK54 was observed on 1/21 with blood on his nose/muzzle.   Possibilities include that (1) he was hooked again on the nose and removed the hook himself, (2) he had an infection or illness causing him to bleed from the nose, or (3) some other injury occurred to the area.  He has since been observed by volunteers and DLNR staff; his appearance and behavior have returned to normal, but we are still monitoring him closely.  What a month for this little guy!

RK56 (juvenile male, too curious about humans last Fall) has been frequently seen over the past few weeks at Kalapaki Bay.  Observers note that he has not sought out any human interaction, and it has been endearing to see how the local folks who regularly picnic in the area have taken to protecting him.

Hawaiian monk seal TT40

Photo credit: Steciuk.

On 1/20, a memorial for male seal TT40 was led by one of Kauai’s kupuna at Maha’ulepu Beach, one of the seal’s regular haul-out locations.  It was a beautiful day.  The event was attended by several volunteers, NOAA staff, and a television film crew.   Kupuna  opened with a chant to clear the path for TT40, then the attendees spent some time individually remembering the interesting and enchanting seal that he was.  Kupuna shared another chant celebrating TT40’s long life, and all those

Hawaiian monk seal TT40

Photo credit: Steciuk.

present had the opportunity to return some of his ashes to the ocean. The members of the film crew, from ABC’s “Born to Explore”, were very respectful and grateful to be able to share part of TT40’s story with the world.  This segment was one of many; the show will also highlight research and response efforts to conserve the Hawaiian monk seal.

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Hawaiian monk seal RK13

Photo credit: Michele Bane

We have had several reports of seals swimming up into canals on the east shore over the past few weeks.  In particular, RK13 has been observed “logging” 
(resting at the surface of the water) in a canal near the Kapa’a Library.  Both 
freshwater activity (and the health hazards presented therein) and logging 
are behaviors of concern for Hawaiian monk seals.  Please be sure to report 
both immediately, so that our staff can respond and observe the behavior(s) 
in person.

RK13 is of special concern, and we are monitoring her very closely.  She 
has two new injuries (first observed 12/7), consistent with shark bites.  One is near her left 
foreflipper, which she did not appear to be using for the first couple of weeks.  The other is on the underside of her 
right side.   Neither wound is life-threatening, they are not very deep, 
and both are showing quite a bit of healing progress.   She began hauling out on sand again in Kapaa town on 
12/11, but has also continued to visit canals.  She rests peacefully in the Kapaa Library canal, but had a rough day in the canal near the Bull Shed 
restaurant on 12/13.  The canal was a couple of feet deep when she entered 
it early in the day, but by afternoon it was down to a few inches of water. 
RK13 galumphed all the way up the canal behind the Safeway shopping center, 
and struggled to get out of the sludgy mud.  It was awful to watch, but 
handling her would have been more stressful and likely less successful than 
letting her work her way through.  She did figure it out, and worked her way slowly (lots of rest breaks!) back to the ocean.  Since then, she has 
hauled out on sand in Kapaa, Anahola and Moloaa, and also spent a few 
more days in the Kapaa Library Canal.  She is using her left foreflipper normally 
again, starting on Christmas Eve!  Thanks for that holiday gift, RK13!

RK30 (adult female, entanglement scar around neck and large scar on side), 
interestingly enough, was observed in two different Kapaa canals on 
12/29.  Careful 
not to get these two ladies confused!

Hawaiian monk seal RK56

Photo credit: Michele Bane

Another two seals who have flipped the switch on us are RK56 (weaner male, exhibiting curiosity toward humans in November) and RK52 (weaner female, 
born at Larsen’s, April 2011)!  RK56 was most recently seen today at Nukoli’i on the east shore, and RK52 has been observed twice in 
Hanalei.  Careful not to assume identity on these little seals – they’re on the move!  RK52 
has been hauling up very high and looking for trouble; last week she hauled out under a plastic chair, and the next day under a wire fence!  Thankfully, 
she was not entangled.

RB24 (subadult female who lost weight earlier this year) continues to look improved!  Her body condition is back to normal.

R313 (adult female, formerly Temp V23) received a new “V23” bleach mark 
while PIFSC’s Mark Sullivan was on island visiting.  Thanks, Mark!   R313 has been observed from Larsen’s to Ke’e.

At sunset on Christmas Eve, we received a report of a seal entangled in a net in the rocks behind the Beach House restaurant in Lawai.   The entanglement
turned out to be a false alarm; the juvenile tagged seal was just investigating the lay-gillnet in the water.   DoCARE reports that any net is illegal if it is either (1) left unattended, or (2) still set after sunset.  This net was both, so law enforcement is working to identify the net and remove it.

On 12/28, at sunset again, we had another report of a lay-gillnet set about 50 yards down the beach from a hauled-out seal, this time at Ke’e 
Beach.  One of our volunteers was present and spoke with the fishers, but they left the net in place.  Luckily, R313 (adult female bleached V23) did not get entangled. 
We saw her hauled out nearby the next day.

Hawaiian monk seal A20

Photo credit: M. Miyashiro

RA20 (juvenile female born at Larsen’s in 2009, a.k.a. “Momona”, rarely 
seen) has been observed on the south and east shores recently!  She is 
clearly not accustomed to being near humans; she is very sensitive, and was disturbed off of the Courtyard Marriott beach twice yesterday by beachgoers walking past her too closely.

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Photo credit: S. Johnson

RK54, the male weaned seal born at North Larsen’s in April of this year, had a plastic ring around his muzzle on October 11, preventing him from eating normally.   Our team was able to remove the ring and check the muzzle for injuries.  Thanks to our volunteers and members of the public who helped with this important response – go team!!

We have had several sightings of T21M, an adult male seal from

Photo credit: D. Lee

Laysan in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  He was relocated to the main Hawaiian islands in 1994, and was recently flipper tagged 7GY/7GZ and fitted with a cell phone tag on Oahu.  He was most recently seen at Lawai Kai in the National Tropical Botanical Gardens!

Photo credit: M. Miyashiro

RB14 (four-year-old female) and RA16 (two-year-old male) had a molting party on the east side again this year!  RA16 has now successfully molted.

RK56 (weaner male, born at Miloli’i in May 2011 to RK30) has been very curious with humans in shallow water for the past week at Ke’e Beach, at the end of the road on the north shore.  He has been observed following snorkelers, and checking out children face-to-face in the very shallow water.  This is dangerous behavior for RK56 and for the people near him.  As a newly weaned seal, he is curious and nonaggressive.  However, if humans reinforce this behavior (with food or play), he will begin to expect and demand the reinforcement, and could become aggressive to those who don’t behave the way he expects them to.  Also, as he grows, he will become larger and stronger; and hormonal changes will cause him to exhibit new behaviors that will certainly be dangerous to his human playmates. We would like to monitor RK56 very closely. If you see him please report it to our Kauai Monk Seal Sighting Hotline at 808-651-7668, keep your distance, and encourage others to do the same.

RK13 (flipper tags 5AA/5AB) is an adult female with a chronic lesion on her rump.  RK13 has had a “lump” since 2008, but it has recently swelled, likely become infected, burst, and begun to slough. We are prepared to send a team to sample and medicate her, but presently the lesion seems to be subsiding on its own.  This, combined with the possibility that she is pregnant, warrant the need to evaluate very carefully before handling her.   For now, we are closely monitoring the progress of the lesion.  If you see her, please report her to the hotline, photograph her full body and the lesion, and email photos the same day to 
kauaiseals@gmail.com.

UPDATE to Field Report: August/September 2011

Juvenile male seal RT12was seen on August 30 with a small hook in the skin of his belly, between his umbilicus and his

Photo credit: M. Bane

penile opening.  At that time, the hook had a red transparent lure and about 3 feet of fine monofilament attached.  He was observed a few days later with only a few inches of line remaining. He has now been seen several times with no hook or line!

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Field Notes: January 2011

It’s been a busy beginning to 2011 for the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui!!  Here’s the latest news for our island’s seals.

RA00, “Kaikoa”, is a juvenile seal who will be two years old this March.  She is looking too thin for her age, and quite green.  The green color in her fur coat is evidence that she has not yet molted.  Hawaiian monk seals molt once per year, shedding their outer layer of fur and skin.  She can be identified with her rear flipper tags, which are red with white letters/numbers A00 (left flipper) and A01 (right flipper), and by her bleach mark, V22.  If you see Kaikoa, please call the Kauai monk seal hotline at 808-651-7668, so we can assess her health further.

RK12 is our six-time mama seal.  She most recently gave birth around Thanksgiving 2009 at Maha’ulepu beach, and was thought to be pregnant again this year.  However, she has now completed her molt!  This indicates that she is not in fact pregnant.  It’s normal for mama seals to take a year off between pups, and RK12 has not taken a break in six years.  Good for her!

The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center monk seal research team was working on Kauai for a week this January.  Here are some examples of the great work they did to help us learn about Kauai’s seals:

  • RO18, an adult male with flipper tags 6FA/6FB, was bleached V25 at Kauai Beach Resort, and was spotted on Oahu a couple of days later!
  • Three-year old female seal RB24, “Ha’upu”, received a cell phone tag and her tracks have already started showing up – she went south down the coast, and was seen a couple of days later in Kapa’a.
  • R6FM is the new permanent ID for an unknown juvenile female found at North Larsen’s beach; the PIFSC team gave her flipper-tags 6FM/6FN.
  • Adult female RK13 (tags 5AA/ 5AB) has a new V21 bleach mark, and adult male RK05 (tags 4DA/4DB) has a new V30 bleach mark.  Juvenile female RW06 was given a new V8 bleach mark.
  • R6FQ is the new permanent ID for the little unknown juvenile male bleached 
”V16″ earlier this month.

Thanks to PIFSC and all of our volunteers for their hard work for Kauai’s seals!!

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RT12 has his Hawaiian name!  He is Kimo Kai, or “Sleepy Ocean”, named by (and after) vacationing volunteer Jim Maser when RT12 was just a couple of weeks old.   After checking with our Hawaiian cultural practitioners, we have now made it official!

Mahalo-eha (RA36) has been spotted back at his natal beach, Maha’ulepu!

Hawaiian monk seals

Photo credit: Michele Bane

Love is in the air for Kauai’s seals!  We have seen lots of male-female pairs hauled out, entering, and exiting the water together lately.  Some of these included large adult female RK13 with Oahu/Kauai male RO18; scarred female RK30 with our old, dominant male TT40, seven-time mom RK12 with young adult male R4DI, and Oahu male Kermit (RO12) with an unidentified female.   Even little juvenile Kaikoa (RA00) has been seen several times with subadult male RV18, though this pair is too young to mate!

Kermit (RO12), as mentioned above, has returned to Kauai.  But check out what he was doing this summer!!  He had a 2000-mile journey into the pelagic (open-ocean) realm!

Hawaiian monk seal journey

Back on the east shore of Kauai, Kermit lost his cell-phone tag. Thanks to one of our observant and thorough volunteers finding the tag in the sand, we can now learn more about Kermit’s adventure and reuse his tag to track another seal!

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Pup-watch has ended for RT12!  He has still been sighted frequently at Larsen’s beach, but has also left the area for several days at a time.  Keep your eyes peeled for this little roly-poly – he’s still vulnerable to learning the wrong way to coexist with people on the beach!!

The “unidentified” adult male seal fitted with a cell-phone tag last month turns out to be RO18, a known seal who often travels back and forth between Kauai and Oahu.  He went straight back to Oahu after being tagged on Kauai, but returned to Kauai for most of July and spent his time here with adult female RK13.  Previously thought to be pregnant, RK13 is now showing appearance and behavior cues indicating otherwise.

Adult female 5AY, previously expected to pup on Kauai this summer, had a pup on Oahu instead!  We may not have any more Kauai newborns until winter!

Mahalo-eha (RA36) has still been hanging out on the east shore, and one day this month decided to haul out right onto the Fuji Beach boat ramp!  This is not a safe place for a seal to rest!  Mahalo-eha is still in the impressionable life stage during which he could either learn to be a wild seal, or to be a human-friendly seal.   If he learns that it is a positive thing to approach humans, then he will be attracted to his own greatest threats:  boats, propellers, hooks, nets, and people who don’t realize how special monk seals are. Dr. Mimi Olry used special equipment and aversive conditioning techniques to discourage him from resting on the boat ramp, for his and the public’s safety.  Please note that changing the behavior of a Hawaiian monk seal is against state and federal law without the proper permits, which Dr. Olry has.

Pohaku (RO28) has been spending quite a bit of time on the island at Poipu Beach Park – every day for the past 2 weeks!  She may be getting ready to molt, or she may just be repeating her typical behavior of finding and sticking to a favorite resting spot!

The PIFSC monk seal research team visited Kauai this month, hoping to fit more seals with cell-phone tags to study their movements and dive behavior.  The criteria for this procedure are pretty strict:  the seal must be hauled out in a sandy spot safe for restraint. It must be restrained during the cooler parts of the day.   The seal cannot be too young, too small, pregnant, nursing, molting, near-molting, or otherwise already stressed.  These criteria are all for the seals’ health and safety.  Our team encountered quite a few seals on this trip, but unfortunately only one fit all the criteria: adult male RK02.  Even more unfortunately for the team, RK02 is a clever seal who eluded the researchers not once but TWICE!  He made a run for the water both times.   Better luck next time, PIFSC!

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