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Archive for the ‘RK13’ Category

Update: The Kauai team logged 264 seal sightings this month. This included 39 individually identified seals.

February: 264
January: 319
December: 180
November: 223
October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350

New:

  • Adult female RK13 hauled out on the road shoulder at Fuji Beach, Kapaa, requiring one lane to be closed. She was displaced back into water by NOAA and DLNR staff, and the lane was re-opened.
  • Adult female RK13 hauled out with a small amount of gillnet wrapped around her muzzle and top teeth. A blunt hook attached to a pole was used to pull most of the net off. A small amount remained attached to the top left canine but did not pose a hazard and was gone by the next day.
  • Juvenile male R1NI was displaced from under a hazardous undercut bank at Kiahuna Beach, Poipu. The overhanging bank collapsed two days later.
  • Juvenile female NL04 sighted on Kauai. This seal was born on Niihau and flipper tagged during a Niihau survey. She hauled out on the north shore and was the first sighting her on Kauai. 

Updates on previously reported issues:

  • Five of the six pups born in 2019 have been sighted recently and continue to thrive, the sixth is likely on the remote Na Pali Coast.
  • Displacements: Adult male R4DW was displaced from Glass Beach at sunset due to the unsafe night time haul-out location.
  • Molting: 
    • RN44 completed his molt on the north shore.
    • RJ36 molted on the south shore.
    • RK58 molted on the south shore.
  • Bleach marking: 1 applied this month.

Research/Support of Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

  • 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 #88: Netted.

Hawaiian monk seals are curious creatures, sticking their noses in places to find food. Unfortunately, some of those places can be dangerous for them. It seems those causing the most harm are a result of humans. Over the years, the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui has removed all kinds of things from the muzzles of monk seals, including plastic rings and, even, a plastic water bottle. Thankfully, our team has gotten pretty creative at responding to these situations.

At 3:30 on the afternoon of February 10, a volunteer called the hotline to report that adult female RK13 was entangled with a small amount of lay gillnet (fishing net) around her mouth. Importantly, she was able to open her mouth and did not appear in distress.  

When NOAA officials arrived at 4:15, RK13 was resting comfortably. A small amount of light-weight gillnet was wrapped around her muzzle, nose, and upper teeth. What was unclear, however, was how much gillnet was in her mouth.  Or, even, if she’d ingested any of it.

After receiving authorization, the team approached the sleeping seal with a blunt hook attached to a pole. The object was to snag the gillnet in order to pull it off. When the hook made contact with her face, RK13 flinched and made an open mouth threat which revealed a small amount of net attached to her top left canine. Another small piece of similar size was removed with the pole hook. No further net was observed inside the seal’s mouth. The small piece remained attached to the top left canine but did not pose a hazard to the seal. The seal entered the water and swam away.

RK13 was sighted the next day free of the final small piece of the gillnet. 

(FYI: The gillnet size was 3 inches (8 cm) stretched mesh size, which is legal in Hawaii. Legal stretched mesh size is 2 inches or larger.)

As these photos illustrate, this gillnet could have easily gone unnoticed. (This is why a good pair of binoculars come in super handy.) Thankfully, a very alert volunteer didn’t miss it.

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The numbers are tallied. Below you’ll find the top ten “reported” Hawaiian monk seals on Kauai for 2019. By reported, we mean those monk seals that were reported—and identified—to the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline. (See a monk seal on the beach? Report it to 808-651-7668.)

Keep in mind, many things affect this list. Monk seals often have favorite locations where they haul out. If a monk seal favors a location that happens to be easily accessible by humans, bingo, that seal will be reported more often to the hotline. Of course, monk seal moms and their pups rack up a high number of reported sightings, because they stick to the same beach for weeks on end. Molting monk seals, too. As this list will also reveal, young monk seals–especially young males–are often sighted and reported, too, because they tend to make themselves noticed;-)

To make this list a little more interesting, we’ve included only those tagged seals, meaning pups are not included until they are weaned and tagged.

So, here goes:

  1. With 122 reported sightings, five-year-old male R3CX tops our list. He was flipper-tagged as a youngster at Keoneloa (colloquially known as Shipwrecks) beach in March 2015. Since then, he’s been commonly seen roughhousing with other males along the south shore and has been displaced from dangerous areas on more than one occasion. He was last seen on November 30th at Poipu.
  2. With 117 reported sightings, four-year-old male RG58 follows close behind. Not surprising since they can both be found hauled out on the same beach or roughhousing in shallow water. Born to RH58 in 2015 on the north shore, RG58 is regularly sighted on the south shore. He was last reported today at Poipu.
  3. With 116 reported sightings, six-year-old female R7GM ranks third. Those numbers were boosted by the fact that she molted this year. She was last reported on the north shore on December 27th.
  4. With 99 reported sightings, six-year-old male RN44 ranks fourth this year, also boosted by his reported molting. RN44 was born to RH58 in 2013 on the north shore where he’s a regular and has been reported interacting with weaners. He was last reported on the north shore on December 27th.
  5. With 97 reported sightings, mature female RK13 ranks fifth this year, boosted in her numbers by her molt. Most of the sightings come from the east side; however, she sometimes pops up on the south and west side of the island. She’s also been known to swim up and log in canals. This year, RK13 was displaced from the road edge at Fuji Beach, Kapaa at 3:00 in the morning after calls from the police reported she was on the road’s edge and in danger of being run over. RK13 was reported today to be hauled out on the east side.
  6. With 77 reported sightings, sub-adult, four-year-old male RG22 ranks sixth. He was born to RK22 on the north shore but quickly made his way to the south shore, hanging out with the boys on the south shore. Once, he was photographed wearing a pair of swim goggles around his neck. Luckily, they fell off after a couple days. He was last reported on the south shore on October 10th but has since started to wander and was recently sighted off Hawaii Island.
  7. With 73 reported sightings, mature female RK30 ranks seventh. She’s approximately 21 years old and has given birth to 11 known pups, including RL30 this year. She was last seen on November 8th at Mahaulepu.
  8. With 68 reported sightings, one-year-old female RKA2 ranks eighth. She was born on a remote beach along Na Pali Coast in 2018 to RK30. She was last reported on December 20th on the east side.
  9. With 62 reported sightings, eight-year-old female RK52 ranks ninth. Her sightings are bolstered by two things: she weaned her first pup this year, and she was reported molting. RK52 favors north shore beaches. She was born to RH58 and was last reported on a north shore beach on December 22nd.
  10. With 58 reported sightings, three-year-old female R1NS rounds out our top ten list. She was flipper-tagged on the east side in 2017 and is notable for her natural bleach marks on the first three digits of her left fore flipper. She was last sighted on the north shore on December 29th.

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Field Report: October 2019

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 258 seal sightings this month. This included 36 individually identified seals.

October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284

New:

  • A new juvenile male seal was flipper tagged on the South Shore by the Kauai team. The seal’s ID is R1NI.
  • Very pregnant AF R8HE spent two weeks on a North Shore beach. This seal is usually on Maui and Hawaii Island, and pupped on Maui in 2018. She has moved back to Oahu since. Her predicted pupping date was Nov 9.
  • The annual monk seal count day occurred on Oct 19th. Kauai had the most seals with 20 seals reported before noon. Three more seals hauled out later the day for a total of 23 different seals sighted on Kauai that day. The statewide (from Kauai to BI) total count was 50 seals.

Updates:

  • PK6 born at Milolii in September is male, the mother is R400, the same female that has pupped at Milolii in Sept the past 2 years. The pup weaned on approximately Oct 31, resulting in 41-day nursing period. Tour boats and kayak companies are providing updates.
  • S/F R7AA was seen with a small lump under the left jaw line on 8/31/19, it was possibly a small abscess. The seal was re-sighted on 10/21/19 in good health with no obvious abscesses on the jaw line.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at KKO and released in July, continues to thrive on the North Shore.
  • All of the 6 pups born this year have been sighted recently and continue to thrive.
  • Displacements: A/F RK13 was displaced from the road edge at Fuji Beach, Kapaa at 3:00 am after calls from the police that the seal was on the road edge and in danger of being run over.
  • Molting: 3 seals molted this month.
  • Vaccinations: No vaccinations given this month.
  • Bleach marking: Two seals were bleach marked this month, both are new untagged seals.

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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PC: G. Langley

The numbers are in.

Last week, a couple days after weaning, PK1 was flipper-tagged. He is now known as RL08. His left flipper tag reads L08, and his right reads L09.

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PC: G. Langley

At the same time he was tagged, RL08 also received his initial vaccination to protect against morbillivirus. (Click here to learn more about the Hawaiian monk seal vaccination program.)

Too, Kauai’s newest weaner was measured—both in length and girth. As suspected, RL08 set some recent records.

The hefty weaner measured 145 centimeters in length—from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. His girth—the widest part of his body just below his fore flippers—rolled in at a ridiculous 143 centimeters. Basically, he’s almost as big around as he is long.

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PC: G. Langley

But how do those numbers compare?

For a variety of reasons, not all weaners get measured. However, the average length of 14 weaners (not including RL08) over the past six years, equaled 130.5 centimeters. The average girth of those same 14 weaners equaled 114.85 centimeters.

Let me repeat: RL08’s length came in at 145 centimeters and his girth at 143 centimeters.

He’s a big boy.

Based on the photos (thanks again, Gary), we knew that, right?

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PC: G. Langley

In some other good news, RK13’s pup from last year—RK42, who was last sighted the day she had a fishing hook removed from mouth on July 28—popped up last week on the southeast side of the island look quite healthy herself. What a relief.

RK42 proves that bigger doesn’t always equate to weaner survival. She was a fairly small weaner, measuring 126 centimeters in length and 100 centimeters around her girth when she was tagged last year. Go RK42!

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Just two days shy of eight weeks after giving birth, RB00 finally weaned her pup, PK1.

RB00 nursed for a grand total of 54 days. That’s the longest stretch of nursing days for a Kauai pup going back to and including data on pups since 2012. The previous record was 51 days set in 2017 by RK30, a well-known (and well-storied) mom. Her pup was RJ36. The year prior, in 2016, RK30 nursed her pup (RH38) for a total of 50 days.

The average number of nursing days for Kauai moms since 2012 is 42 days. Last year, RK30 nursed for 49 days while both RK28 and RO28 nursed their pups for 39 days each.

The shortest number of nursing days occurred in 2012 when RK13 weaned RL10 after 32 days. During her pregnancy, RK13 experienced two injuries consistent with shark bites that left her in smaller condition than her usual pregnancy weight.

Here are some of the very last photos of PK1 with RB00 and also a few from his first day on his own. Watch for one photo in particular that illustrates clearly why some people theorize that the moniker “monk” for these seals harken to the kind of hood some religious monks wear as part of their habit.

As always, thanks to Gary Langley for so generously sharing his photographs.

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Field Report: November

Monthly Update: The Kauai team reported 28 individually identified seals in November for a grand total of 145 seal sightings reported to the hotline.

November: 145
October: 203
September: 199
August: 295
July: 414
June: 315
May: 332
April: 302
March: 299

New:

  • Juvenile female R7AA was disturbed by a leashed barking dog at Salt Pond Beach Park and left the area.
  • A seal was harassed at Mahaulepu by group of men making noises at it to elicit a response. They were also playing football very near the seal. The seal left the beach due to the disturbance; however, hauled out again later after the men were gone. The disturbance was witnessed and reported by a member of the public.

Updates:

  • Update: RK58 remains at Ke Kai Ola for rehabilitation. RK58 is now free feeding and gaining weight.
  • Sub-adult male NG00 hauled out at Poipu with the circle hook still in his lip. The original hooking occurred in Sept of 2017. The seal is in excellent body condition, but had just finished molting and was therefore not captured for de-hooking.
  • Poipu Keiki Pool: RK13 was displaced this month. That was her fourth displacement in 2 years. (Remember, this only happens with NOAA approval and by trained individuals.)
  • Bleach markings: 4 bleach marks were applied.
  • Molting: 2 seals molted 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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As you may recall, the first Kauai pup was born on April 20, 2018 at Maha’ulepu to RK13. While this pup was with her mother she was known as PK1 (Pup Kauai #1), and then after 37 days of nursing, her mother weaned her, and we briefly captured and flipper tagged her. This process usually takes less than five minutes and includes a brief restraint while plastic flipper tags are applied in the webbing of the rear flippers. Her tags read K42 and K43, making her official ID RK42. The R indicates that she is part of the Main Hawaiian Island population and the K indicates she was born in 2018, and finally the 42 is her unique ID. During the tagging process her length and girth were also measured, a microchip was injected under her skin, and she was given her first vaccination against a virus in the measles family known as morbillivirus, also known as distemper in other species. You can learn more about this virus and the monk seal vaccination program here.

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As previously reported, RK42 became entangled in hook and line fishing gear on July 28th, which left a large fish hook in her mouth. The Kauai team quickly responded and captured her on the beach and removed the hook. The hook was a rather large barbed J-hook that was somewhat difficult to remove, primarily due to the sharp barb which caused some tissue damage in her mouth and mild bleeding. She spent the rest of that day resting normally at Maha’ulepu, but has not been seen since.

It is not uncommon for young seals to find a quiet out of the way places to haul-out, so we hope that is the case. In fact, it’s happened before. In June 2009, R5AY gave birth on a North Shore Kaua`i​ beach to a female pup who was eventually tagged RA20. After weaning, as RA20 started to explore, she all but disappeared. Time between sightings would stretch into months and years. Then, surprising everyone, she started popping up on Maui and Hawai`i Island beaches. In 2017, she gave birth to her first pup. Unfortunately, the pup did not survive. However, earlier this year, RA20 gave birth to a second, healthy pup.

As with most wildlife, surviving to adulthood is not easy. First year survival rates for monk seals in the Main Hawaiian islands is approximately 80%. The hooking was a very minor so we have little reason to believe it caused her longer term problems, but again young monk seals face many threats, both anthropogenic and natural. However, we are optimistic we will see her hauled out somewhere sometime soon in good health.

This is a good reminder to report all monk seal sightings on Kaua`i by calling our hotline–808-651-7668.

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Hawaiian monk seals can pup anytime throughout the year, but the majority tend to do so in the spring and summer. Typically, at the start of the year, our team starts tracking pregnant females, watching out for the regulars like RH58, RK30, and RK13. But the list will also include others and can tally more than 10. But we’ve yet to hit double digits in annual pup births on Kauai—at least, in recent history. There are likely moms who miscarry and others (like RK52) who produce stillborn pups. But a handful of pregnant females seem to disappear right before they give birth. Then, they return six or eight weeks later looking thin.

In science, “philopatry” is the tendency for an animal to stay or habitually return to the same place. “Natal philopatry” is the tendency for an animal to return to their birthplace to breed. In the case of Hawaiian monk seals, we often—but not always—see females return to their birthplace to pup. 

The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program estimate approximately 300 of the endangered pinnipeds make their home in the Main Hawaiian Islands. On Kauai, we roughly estimate 50, although some seals do make inter-island trips. The island associated with the greatest number of monk seals is Niihau—at 150. Roughly 15 ocean miles separate Kauai from our neighbor island of Niihau. This is not a considerable journey for monk seals. In 2010, one monk seal outfitted with a tracking device made a 2,000-mile pelagic journey. So, for monk seals, 15 miles might be considered a walk in the park. And this can explain why 10 pregnant seals sighted on Kauai beaches results in five pups born on Kauai. A few return to their birth place on Niihau when it’s time for them to pup.

Here’s some data to illustrate:

RK14: A Kauai regular who was observed in 2017 with a pup on Niihau. RK14’s window of absence from Kauai was 8/16/17 to 11/23/17, but she isn’t sighted routinely–she likes to haul out on remote North Shore and Na Pali beaches, so her absence was most likely shorter.

R1KY: A Kauai regular who was observed in 2017 with a pup on Niihau. R1KY’s window of absence from Kauai was 4/8/17 to 6/16/17. In 2018 she wasn’t sighted on Kauai from 5/30/18 to 7/17/18, but no surveys happened on Niihau during this window so we’re unsure if she pupped. Here are before and after photos of her.

R1KY on 04182018R1KY on 07172018

R313: In 2017, she disappeared from 7/26/17 until 9/23/17, looking very large in July, but still pretty big when she came back, so we’re not sure what happened during that time. In 2018, she looked large and had teats protruding on 6/26/18 and was next sighted back on Kauai on 9/1/18 looking thin. 

In 2017, RK28 was on Kauai with teats protruding on 6/5/17, then gone until 8/24/17 when she was reported as “thin.” In 2018 she pupped on Kauai’s North Shore.

In 2018, RK90 likely pupped on Niihau between 12/28/17 and 2/17/18.

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Here’s the first interaction of RK58 and another pup named Sole at Ke Kai Ola. Sole was born on Molokai and is the older and larger of the two.

Like RK58, Sole was rescued and delivered to Ke Kai Ola–known colloquially as the Monk Seal Hospital–due to another mom-pup switch while nursing. Since 2014, Ke Kai Ola has cared for Hawaiian monk seals–mostly pups and weaners–at their facility at Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island. Ke Kai Ola was built through a cooperative effort between the Marine Mammal Center and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

Also, speaking of RH58, on August 16, she was reported to be back on Oahu where she spends her non-motherhood days.

Meanwhile, back on Kauai, the first female to give birth this year, RK13, is putting on weight after weaning her pup, RK42. As you know, females do not feed during the five to seven weeks they nurse their pups, growing skinnier by the day. Typically, females will go into estrus sometime after weaning. They’ll also go through an annual molt in the weeks and months after weaning; however, RK13 hasn’t molted yet. She has been sighted with male R6FQ on numerous occasions since August 11th.

R6FQ is a seven-year-old male who is easily identified by deep line scars at the base of his left rear flipper, possibly sustained during a propeller strike when he was a juvenile. Prior to hanging around RK13, he was repeatedly sighted during June and half of July with RK90.

RK90 is an adult female who was likely born on Niihau. She popped up on a Kauai Beach as a juvenile in 2013 with a fish hook in her mouth. It was removed and at the same time she was flipper-tagged. Last May, she was also found with a large fish hook sticking out of her mouth. This was her second known hooking. Both hooks were successfully removed on the beach. Late last year, RK90 was sighted on Kauai looking large and very pregnant. Then, she disappeared for six weeks, returning in mid-February looking thin. It’s suspected that she returned to her natal island to give birth, something many, but not all, females do.

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