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Archive for the ‘RL58’ Category

Monk Seal Monday #116: Top Ten

Below you’ll find the top ten “reported” Hawaiian monk seals on Kauai for 2020. By reported, we mean those monk seals that were called in—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 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 flipper-tagged.

You might find it interesting to compare this year to last year. You’ll see a few regulars appearing in both years, as well as, some newcomers to the list. However, keep in mind, because of COVID-19 and the greatly abbreviated volunteer program, this year’s reporting numbers are, as expected, quite lower. What’s interesting is that the many years of work by the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui has educated the public so well that the hotline is still ringing. Concerned citizens are calling and reporting seals. This is in great part due to the diligent outreach efforts of the volunteer team.

So, here goes:

  1. With 90 reported sightings, one-year-old female RL58 tops the list. She was born to the famous RH58, also known as Rocky, in July of 2019. She remains close to her natal beach and has a preference for hauling out in rocky areas rather than sand, and doesn’t socialize with other seals much.
  2. With 66 reported sightings, the 20 plus year-old-female RK13 ranks second. She is the most well-known seal on Kauai’s east side, easily identifiable by her blind white left eye, many body scars, and worn red flipper tags that read 5AA and 5AB. She has given birth at least three times that we know of, including in 2012, 2015, 2018. Hopefully she will continue that pattern and pup again in 2021.
  3. With 61 reported sightings, seven-year-old RN30 ranks third. He tends to range far and wide with reported sightings of him from many different beaches on Kauai and Oahu.
  4. With 52 reported sightings, the seven-year-old R353 ranks fourth. She first showed up on Kauai in 2016 and is likely a Niihau girl. The past couple of years we watched her gradually get very large and pregnant, disappear for a couple of months and then return after losing about half her body weight. We suspect her pups were born on Niihau.
  5. With 45 reported sightings, one-year-old male RL08 ranks fifth. He was infamously fat as a pup, nursing two full weeks longer than the average nursing period of 40 days. It appears that 54 days of fatty milk gave him a head start as he now looks more like a 3-year-old seal, rather than the yearling he is.
  6. With 44 reported sightings, R3CD and RN44 are tied for sixth. These 6 and 7-year-old males, respectively, are difficult to tell apart. They are the same size, have very few scars, and often challenge each other for the right to rest near certain females. However, RN44 has recently become a regular seal sighted on Oahu, so R3CD may have less competition in 2021.
  7. With 43 reported sightings, two-year-old female RKA2 comes in at a very close seventh. She’s the offspring of the late, great, RK30, and has become a very faithful east side seal, although originally from Milolii Beach on the Na Pali Coast.
  8. And finally tied for eighth, with 41 reported sightings, are the four-year-old R1NS and nine-year-old RK90. These healthy large females are both most likely from Niihau, but tagged on Kauai as yearlings. R1NS is currently looking rather large, and we suspect she is pregnant for her first time. The question is, where will she go to pup?

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Some monk seals like to roam far and wide, as we recently wrote about a few of those seals that have made the journey across the 80-mile, point-to-point Kaʻieʻie Waho Channel from Kauai to Kaena Point on Oahu.

Then, there are another group of seals. Those that stick close to home and can be counted on to appear in a handful of locations. The young RL58 is fast-becoming one of the most predictable to haul out in the same general location day after day–nearly 70 times year-to-date–very near her natal beach.

RL58 was the fifth-born pup of 2019. She was born to the famed RH58, also known as Rocky, and nursed for 45 days. She wasn’t the largest of weaners we’ve seen, measuring 118 cm long and 96 cm around (girth) at weaning; however, she’s survived the most crucial year of her life. She turned one-year-old on July 20th.

RL58 has also been described as “feisty,” a characteristic that likely came in handy in those early days post-weaning when rough-housing with other young seals. She also shows great equanimity when large older male seals occasionally haul out near her.

During her first year, RL58 has also experienced two significant cookie cutter shark bites–one near her genital slit and the other above her right fore flipper. Both wounds healed quickly and completely. She appears in a good healthy condition.

Now that RL58 has turned one year old, we start to think about RH58–who has been sighted on Oahu looking pregnant. In fact, her estimated due date is August 4th. If she behaves like she has so many times before, she’ll make the journey across the Kaʻieʻie Waho Channel a few days before her due date, appearing on her natal beach a day or night before giving birth again. So, we may have another pup soon.

Here is RL58 in one of her regular spots, a lava rock intertidal area a short distance down the coastline from her natal beach.

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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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The Kauai team logged 203 seal sightings this month. This included 31 individually identified seals.

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

New:

  • A second pup was born at a remote beach along Na Pali Coast. The ID of the mother is unknown, but likely the same Niihau female that has pupped on that beach the past two Septembers, R400. Tour boats and kayak companies are providing updates.

Updates:

  • Sub-adult female R7AA was seen with small lump under left jaw line on 8/31/19, possibly a small abscess. The seal has not been re-sighted since. The plan is to closely monitor.
  • RH58 (Rocky) successfully weaned her female pup, PK5. The pup was flipper-tagged and vaccinated and now has an ID of RL58.
  • RK30 successfully weaned her female pup, PK6. The pup was flipper-tagged, and the seal’s ID is now RL30.
  • RH38, the seal rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola and released in July, continues to thrive on the north shore.
  • The first three 2019 pups (RL08, RL52, and RL28) continue to be sighted in good condition at various north and east shore beaches.
  • Displacements: No seals were displaced this month.
  • Molting: Four seals were observed molting this month.
  • Vaccinations: PK4 and PK5 were vaccinated during pup tagging and received booster vaccinations three weeks later.
  • Bleach marking: One seal was bleach marked 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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Another pup has graduated to “weaner-hood” and received her (yes, female) official flipper tags. Meet RL58. Her mom, the renowned RH58 (Rocky), nursed PK5 for 45 days.

At tagging, RL58 measured 118 cm long and 96 cm around (girth). She’s reportedly doing well, even holding her own with RN44 (male) who has been spotted wrestling and swimming with her. A feisty female is good;-)

Here are some photos of her post-tagging.

(PC: M. Olry)

RL581

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