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Archive for the ‘RK90’ Category

In 2019, the south shore volunteer team was managing two, three, four and sometimes as many as six or seven seals at Poipu at the same time. Challenging times, indeed. Sometimes all seals clustered in one zone; sometimes they spread out over two or even three zones. Of course, the most challenging spot to manage human/seal interactions was the spot that seals liked most, which happened to be the main snorkeling water entrance/exit. In one emergency, lifeguards had to carry a drowning victim over two resting seals, literally, to bring her ashore for CPR. The good news is the rescue was a success, and the person recovered fully.

Then, earlier this year, when the COVID stay-at-home orders were instituted, the volunteer program was placed on hold, and tourism came to a virtual halt. We expected that the seals at Poipu would enjoy resting undisturbed. However, since the pandemic began, the seals seem to have disappeared from the Poipu area. One reason may be there are fewer people on the beaches, so there are fewer calls coming in the hotline. Make sense. But was there something else going on?

Here’s what a review of the data from the daily sightings log revealed:

As expected the number of seals reported in the Poipu area during April-August of this year dropped to a total of 73 sightings. The prior year, during the same five month window, there were a total of 257 reported seal sightings.

A comparison of the individual seals sighted in Poipu in 2019 versus 2020 during that same April-August window revealed the number of unique seals identified in the Poipu area dropped from 21 unique seals in 2019 to 12 in 2020. Too, there’s a slightly different cast of characters hauling out at Poipu this year.

Notably, the notorious “Poipu boys,” a group of rough-housing male seals, have split up with several moving to Oahu, and a couple others moving back to Niihau. From that notorious group, only RG58 remains, and he’s often spotted on the rocks near Brenneckes Beach these days.

Also, two seals from 2019 that occasionally hauled out at Poipu have died—RK30 of old age late last year and RJ36 of a hook ingestion several months ago. Apart from the loss of these two, all the other Poipu regulars of last year are still alive, based on sighting reports across the state.

What this tells us is seal behavior isn’t static, and just when you come to expect the expected out of a seal or group of seals or a particular haul-out location, things change.  As the old philosopher Heroclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Guess he was talking about seals, too.

For more specifics take a look at the list of seals seen in 2019 and 2020.

April through August 2019 – These 21 individuals comprised the 257 reported seal sightings in the Poipu area from Shipwrecks to Lawai Beach):

NG00 -sighted at PMRF in 2020 and frequently on Niihau
R1KY
R1NI
R336 – rare seal
R339 – now an Oahu regular
R376
R3CX – now an Oahu regular
R402 – rare seal
R6FQ – sighted elsewhere on Kauai on 2019 and 2020
R7AA
RF28 – now an Oahu regular
RF30
RG22 – now an Oahu regular
RG58
RH38
RJ36 
RK30 – died of old age in late 2019
RK36 – occasional visitor from Oahu
RK90
RN02 – sighted at PMRF in 2020 and frequently on Niihau
RW22 – occasional visitor from Oahu

April through August 2020 – These 12 unique individuals made up the 73 reported seal sightings in the Poipu area (Shipwrecks to Lawai Beach): 

R1KY
R1NI
R339
R340 – rarely sighted on Kauai
R376
R407 – rarely sighted on Kauai
R7AA
RF30
RG58
RH38
RJ36 – died from hook ingestion in the first half of 2020
RK90

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According to the Hawaii Tourism website, there’s a legend that connects Haupu on Kauai with Kaena Point on Oahu.  It goes like this:

“On the southeast side of Kauai is Haupu, a peak with many stories attached to it. There’s the giant guardian who shared the name Haupu with the peak on which he lived, whose responsibility was to watch for invaders coming in canoes from Oahu across Kaieiewaho Channel. He once saw the glow of torches on the horizon, saw many canoes and heard many voices. It was a fishing tournament off the western coast of Oahu organized by the chief Kaena, but Haupu mistook this for a fleet of invaders and flung rocks at them. The chief was one of the unlucky ones who lost his life, and his people named Kaena Point in his memory. Pohaku O Kauai, one of the stones the size of a house that Haupu threw across Kaieiewaho Channel, can still be found off Kaena Point.”

There’s another thing that connects Kauai and Oahu—Hawaiian monk seals. It’s not unusual phenomena for Kauai regulars to journey to Oahu, often popping up first at Kaena Point, the westernmost point on Oahu. It’s about an 80-mile journey, point to point.

Screen Shot 2020-06-01 at 9.53.31 PMMost recently, it was RK90 who made the crossing. She was last reported on Kauai at Poipu on May 26th. Then, on May 29th, according to Monk Seal Mania, she was spotted at Kaena Point.

RK90 is an adult female who was likely born on Niihau. Here’s what we know about her:

RK90 appeared on a Kauai Beach as a juvenile in 2013 with a fish hook in her mouth. It was removed, and she was flipper-tagged at the same time. In late 2017, 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. In May 2018, she turned up hooked again, requiring beach-side intervention. In 2019, RK90 was regularly reported during the first half of the year and, then, not reported on Kauai from July through November.

Thus far this year, RK90 has been reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline on 25 different occasions. She typically ping-pongs between Kauai’s south shore and west side.

RK90’s journey across the Kaieiewaho Channel makes Oahu her third known island destination. She’s not the only seal to journey from Kauai to Oahu. This year alone, these one-time Kauai regulars, including a couple juveniles, have been sighted on Oahu. The year in parenthesis marks their first year reported on Oahu. Note, this year, five Kauai regulars have ventured across the channel.

RK90 (2020)
RF28 (2020)
RJ28 (2020)
R407 (2020)
R339 (2020)
R3CX (2019)
RG22 (2019)
RG28 (2019)
RH92 (2018)
R353 (2017)
R3CU (2016)
RW02 (2013)
RK36 (2013)
RE74 (2005)
RK28 (2004)
R5AY (2003)
RH58 (2002)

Over the years, these Kauai regulars have also been sighted on Oahu:

R8HY
R2AU
R4DE
R5EW
R6FA
RI37
RA20
R330
R313
RN30
R7AA
R376
R333
R1KT
R8HE
RO28

Kaena Point is a unique landscape on Oahu and important haul out location for Hawaiian monk seals, as well as, numerous native seabirds, including Laysan albatross. It’s a relatively remote and wild coastline. Kaena Point State Park is the gateway to Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve at Oahu’s most northwestern point.

In late April, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Case proposed designating Kaena Point as Hawaii’s first National Heritage Area.

According to a joint press release distributed by Reps Gabbard and Case:

“In addition to its natural beauty, Kaʻena is a wahi pana (significant site), a rare cultural landscape with deep significance and meaning to many people,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “We must work with the community to study the potential for a historic National Heritage Area designation that will help bring the federal resources and protection we need to mālama this special place for generations to come.”

“Kaʻena Point, largely state-owned, is the perfect candidate for Hawaiʻi’s first National Heritage Area given its truly unique cultural, historic and environmental heritage and qualities”, said Rep. Ed Case. “The State of Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has already created a management plan for the Ka‘ena Point Stewardship Area to protect one of the last few remaining and easily accessible wilderness areas on O‘ahu.”

“However, DLNR does not have the resources to fully implement the plan” continued Rep. Case. “Creating a National Heritage Area could bring significant federal dollars – with a state or local match – to help augment this plan and develop cultural programs, protect historic sites and improve natural resource conservation. It would also build on already-existing public-private partnerships which is specifically what our National Heritage Areas aim to create and sustain.”

“We are thrilled at the prospect of adding Ka‘ena Point as a National Heritage Area,” said Suzanne Case, Chair of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Ka‘ena Point receives hundreds of visitors weekly to both the state park and the Natural Area Reserve. Additional federal funding would allow us to enhance the visitor experience, expand community and cultural engagement and refine our natural resource management.”

Background: Reps. Gabbard and Case consulted with government and community groups in considering whether and which sites should be considered for National Heritage Area designation. H.R.6603 incorporates various comments, including a specific prohibition on federal acquisition of the land.

For years, Ka‘ena Point has suffered degradation and damage from erosion, invasive species and off-road vehicles and other damaging recreational use that destroyed vegetation, which made it unsuitable for nesting birds.

After the State established the region as a Natural Area Reserve in 1983, vehicular access to most of the area was blocked. The region can still be accessed via hiking trails, but those who come to the area must abide by strict conditions which has allowed nesting birds to return to the area.

Remote Kaʻena Point is the site of the last intact sand dune ecosystem in Hawaiʻi and is said to be named after a sibling of the Hawaiian goddess Pele. Kaʻena Point also includes a leina ka ‘uhane, an important recognized cultural site that, according to some Hawaiian traditions, is where the souls of the deceased leapt into the next plane of existence. Ka‘ena is also home to various protected species including laysan albatrosses, wedge-tailed shearwaters, monk seals and fragile native plants. Migrating whales can also be seen in the area during the winter months.

National Heritage Areas are locations throughout our country designated by Congress to recognize unique cultural and historic sites found nowhere else in the world. Though not part of the National Park System or otherwise federally owned or managed, the U.S. government through the National Park Service, funds and participates in partnerships with state and local governments and communities to foster coordinated conservation, recreation, education and preservation efforts. From designation of the first National Heritage Area in 1984, there are now 55 nationally, but none in Hawaiʻi.

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Field Report: January 2020

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 319 seal sightings this month. This included 39 individually identified seals.

January 319
December: 180
November: 223
October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303

New:

·       As a volunteer arrived to assess a seal that had recently hauled out, she observed a man poking adult female R1KY with a stick. The volunteer conducted outreach and found the seal resting normally.

·       The general public reported that a small seal hauled out at Shipwrecks Beach on the south shore and was quickly chased back into the water by an off-leash dog. The seal was unharmed.

Updates:

·       Subadult female R7AA, dehooked the previous month, was re-sighted 4 times in January in good condition and completely healed from the hooking.

·       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: RJ36 was displaced (with permission from NOAA) from the Poipu Keiki Pool for the first time. Two weeks later he hauled out on the Keiki Pool Beach again, but was in an unsafe location for displacement so was not hazed off the beach.

·       Molting: RN44 molted at a remote north shore beach and RK90 molted at a remote west side beach, requiring little volunteer response and outreach effort. Adult female R313 also appears freshly molted.

·       Bleach marking: 2 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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Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 180 seal sightings this month. This included 32 individually identified seals.

December: 180
November: 223
October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239
June: 179
May: 262
April: 348
March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284

New:

  • Subadult female R7AA was sighted with a medium sized circle hook in her left cheek. The Kauai team responded and were able to capture her on the beach and remove the hook without complications. A 2-foot heavy gauge monofilament leader and pigtail swivel was attached to the hook which presented a serious entanglement and drowning hazard. The seal was immediately released and has been sighted since with no signs of infection.
  • An untagged adult female that has not been sighted on Kauai previously hauled out at Poipu and has since become a somewhat regular seal on the south shore. This seal was previously sighted on Niihau in 2017 with a pup and has an ID of R371. She has numerous scars and can be easily identified, even without flipper tags.
  • Another untagged Niihau adult female was sighted for the first time on Kauai’s north shore. Her ID is R367.
  • Another untagged likely Niihau seal molted at a remote east side beach. He is a new seal to Kauai and has a temp ID of Temp361.
  • Yearling RL58 observed with a large fresh cookie cutter shark bite very close to the genital slit. The seal was closely monitored for possible infection, and the seal has quickly recovered.
  • A volunteer observed a tourist attempt to pet the large adult female RK90 at a west side beach. The seal responded by leaving the beach. Outreach was conducted by the volunteer.

Updates:

  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at KKO and released in July, continues to thrive on north shore. Her tracking tag remains attached, however the battery has died so no further data is being transmitted.
  • All of the 6 pups born this year have been sighted recently and continue to thrive.
  • Displacements: No displacements this month.
  • Molting: Adult male RN02 spent 3 weeks at the busy Poipu Beach in pre-molt, molt, and post-molt which required extensive volunteer coverage. One other seal molted this month in less busy areas.
  • Vaccinations: A booster morbillivirus vaccine was given to new juvenile seal R1NI.
  • Bleach marking: none 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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Field Report: March

Monthly Update:
The Kauai team logged 350 seal sightings in March. This included 38 individually identified seals.

March: 350
Feb: 303
Jan: 284
Dec: 153
Nov: 145
Oct: 203
Sep: 199

New:

  • Yearling female RKA6 was de-hooked by the Kauai team and immediately released. The hook was a large circle hook with 5 m of heavy monofilament trailing. The seal has fully recovered.

Updates:

  • Adult female RB00 weaned her pup after 54 days of nursing. He was tagged as RL08 in April.
  • RK58 was reared at Ke Kai Ola from August 4, 2018 until released on Feb 13, 2019 after a 3 day soft-release. The seal has remained in the release area, has shown no signs of interest in humans, and is interacting normally with other seals in the area. He also molted this month and lost his satellite tag. He was only 8 months old when he molted, which is unusual as the first molt is usually between 12-16 months of age.
  • Displacements: No seals were displaced from the keiki pool. However, adult female RK90 began hauling out at and spending the nights at a beach that’s considered unsafe due to trucks driving on the beach. Therefore, RK90 was displaced (with the proper NOAA approvals and staff) off the beach at sunset five times, twice along with adult male RK05. RK90 continues to return to this beach several times per week but has begun foraging at night again, eliminating the need for further displacement. Close monitoring of this beach continues.
  • Bleach markings: 3 were applied this month.
  • 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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Happy holidays from RK90, your very pregnant sleepy Hawaiian monk seal.

IMG_4836

It’s starting to look a lot like RK90 is pregnant again. She looked much like this last year this time. Then, she disappeared only to re-appear on Kauai in mid-February. It’s presumed she pupped on Niihau–her first known pupping event–which is a good indication that she herself was born there.

RK90 first appeared on Kauai as a juvenile in 2013 with a fish hook in her mouth. It was removed, and at the same time she was flipper-tagged. In May 2017, she turned up again with a large fish hook sticking out of her mouth. It, too, was removed successfully.

In February of this year, RK90 hauled out at the keiki pool in Poipu and was displaced. (Please remember displacements require skilled training and, as always, prior approval from NOAA. Please never attempt this on your own. But please do call the hotline (808-651-7668) when/if you find a monk seal in the Poipu Keiki Pool.)

This past summer, RK90 was repeatedly sighted with R6FQ, a seven year-old-male.

Now, the question is where will RK90 pup this time. She likes to haul out on the south shore and west side, so keep an eye out for her and call the hotline if you see any monk seals with a pup. However, there’s a good chance RK90 will make the 17-mile journey across the Kaulakahi channel to pup on Niihau again.

Here’s a series of recent photos of RK90. This series also happens to provide a good representation of photographs to take when you come across a monk seal on the beach–providing images of all sides (front, rear, belly, back) for NOAA to identify the seal and make a visual health assessment.

Happy holidays!

IMG_4838IMG_4839IMG_4840IMG_4841IMG_4842IMG_4844IMG_4846

 

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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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https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fthemarinemammalcenter%2Fvideos%2F928013864049272%2F&show_text=0&width=560

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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Sightings:

The Kauai team logged 259 seal sightings this month. This included 32 individually identified seals.

Feb: 259
Jan: 336
Dec: 270
Nov: 239
Oct: 225
Sep: 354

New Issues:

  • RK90 returned after 6 week absence. Was large and pregnant on 12/28/17 and then sighted on 2/17/18 thin. Likely pupped on Niihau. This would be her first pupping.

Updates on previously reported issues:

  • NG00 is likely still hooked and was not sighted this month. NG00 was observed with a circle hook in lower right lip. Sighted on Niihau in January. Photos match pictures sent in by fisherman along Kaumakani in September of a hooked seal. Seal in good condition, hook not life threatening, will attempt to de-hook next time hauled out on sand.
  • Poipu Keiki Pool: 6 displacements took place this month. Listed below are which seals and how many total times they have been displaced from the keiki pool. Please remember displacements require skilled training and, as always, prior approval from NOAA. Please never attempt this on your own. But please do call the hotline (808-651-7668) when/if you find a monk seal in the Poipu Keiki Pool.
    • RN02 – 3rd displacement
    • RG58 – 1st and 2nd displacement both this month
    • R339 – 4th displacement
    • RV18 – 1st displacement
    • RK90 – 3rd displacement
  • Morbillivirus vaccinations: All vaccines on Kauai have expired. No further vaccinations will occur for the time being.
  • Bleach markings: 2 seals bleach marked this month.
  • Molting activity: 1 seal molted this month.

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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.

ThreeSealsandHonu,20170422(LynnNowatzki)

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!

20170426,Fuji,RK13(Miyashiro)

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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