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Monk Seal Monday #143: Male Aggression

When a monk seal hauls out on the beach with wounds on its back, the most common explanation is male-on-female aggression. That’s why earlier this month when a seal rolled onto the beach with a nasty wound on its back, the individual was suspected to be female. Too, the animal was tagged; however, the only visible characters on the very worn tag were “31.” That led to the conclusion the animal was female RF30 (with flipper tags F30 and F31).

However, on a closer look at the animal’s scars and tag in photographs, it was determined the monk seal was not F31. In fact, she wasn’t even a she. The wounded animal was, in fact, adult male RN30–with flipper tag N31. Subsequent photographs confirmed it.

While male-on-male aggression is rare, especially in the main Hawaiian Islands, it’s not novel. The behavior has been witnessed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and is suspected to be related to skewed male-to-female sex ratios. The aggressors tend to be subordinate males ganging up on females. (Like we reported here.) But they can also gang up on adult dominant males.

According to this paper, high concentrations of subordinate males in an area of few females can lead to aggregate aggression. Also, “…much of the evidence gathered to date suggests that aggressive incidents may be more likely to result from a ‘numerical’ failure, where a male that is capable of exerting dominance over 1 or 2 competing males is overwhelmed by a larger number of competitors and is unable to prevent their access to a female.”

The paper shares one particular event: “At the onset of an aggressive onshore attack observed in 1985, an attending male defended a female from a succession of 4 male challengers that remained nearby. Eventually, one of the ‘defeated’ males made a second attempt, and as he fought the attending male, another male rushed in. The defending male rushed back towards the female, followed by all remaining males, and was quickly overwhelmed (Johanos & Austin 1988).”

Earlier this summer, a group of males was video’ed mobbing a female off Lehua, suggesting there may be many subordinate males present off Lehua and Niihau. It’s not known whether N30 is a dominant or subordinate male, but it’s clear he was attacked. Perhaps N30 got mixed up in something similar to the anecdote shared above. Earlier this year, he was observed competing with RN44 for RB00 when she was with PK1. He’s also been sighted at PMRF, a popular spot for seals heading to and/or returning from Niihau. In fact, he was sighted (with no wounds) at PMRF on July 30th. He was next sighted on Kauai’s north shore and reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui on September 4th–bearing the mobbing wounds.

These mobbing wounds can look pretty dramatic. But monk seals have an amazing ability to heal and already, N30’s wounds are healing.

Photo credit: Olry and Megonnell

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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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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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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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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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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

img_0793img_0794RL584.JPG

 

 

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Every month, anywhere from 30 to 38 individual Hawaiian monk seals are reported to the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui. But just who are these regulars? Here’s a look at the top ten most reported Hawaiian monk seal sightings on Kauai this year to date.

Keep in mind, many things affect this list. Monk seals often have favorite haul out locations. 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.

Then, 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. As this list will also reveal, young monk seals–especially sub-adult males–are often sighted and reported, too.

  1. With 83 sightings, adult R7GM tops the list of most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year.  A female, it appears R7GM may be pregnant for the first time. If she pups on Kauai, her chances skyrocket for remaining at the top of this list for 2019.
  2. With 81 sightings, R3CX ranks second for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. R3CX is a five-year-old male commonly seen roughhousing with other young males on Poipu Beach.
  3. With 65 sightings, RG58 ranks third for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. RG58 is a four-year-old male who also prefers the busy beaches of Poipu. His mother is the renown RH58, also known as Rocky.
  4. With 56 sightings, RB00 ranks fourth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai. The year’s first report of RB00 came two days before she gave birth. She nursed for 54 days and immediately left Kauai after weaning her pup. Recently, RB00 was sighted on Maui. RB00 also counts Rocky as her mother.
  5. With 53 sightings, RK52, yet another offspring of the prolific Rocky, ranks fifth on our list. She provided us with Kauai’s second pup of the year. She nursed for 36 days.
  6. With 53 sightings, RN44 ranks sixth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. He is a healthy six-year-old male, frequently sighted on his natal beach on the North Shore of the island. His mother is also Rocky.
  7. With 52 sightings, RL08 is the grandson of Rocky. He was born to RB00 earlier this year and nursed for a whopping 54 days.
  8. With 50 sightings, RK58 ranks eighth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. Another pup of Rocky’s, RK58 was abandoned by his mother in 2018 and spent several months in rehab at Ke Kai Ola before being released back on Kauai.
  9. With 41 sightings, RK30 ranks ninth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. RK30 is pushing 20 years of age. She’s also one of the most storied monk seals around, having survived many threats to her life. Read more about RK30 here.
  10. With 40 sightings, RG22 ranks tenth for the most reported monk seal sightings on Kauai this year. RG22 is another four-year-old male who loves to roughhouse with the boys at Poipu.

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(P)update #41

It’s been a little over two weeks since RH92 was tagged. She has been busy exploring up and down the coastline near where she was born, and she’s been making a few friends, too–there’s Temp325, RN44, RN30, 3CU, RK05, RV18 and even recently de-hooked RF28 sporting a tracking device on his back. We have not witnessed her eat any sea cucumbers, as many weaners inevitably do, but she has tried seaweed. Basically, she’s just being a wild monk seal and doing a good job of it, at that.

Here are a few photos of her escapades.

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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Photo credit: G. Langley

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(P)update #29

RK22 and PK2 had a couple swims today that totaled over four hours and were interrupted for three feedings and a variety of company. In one photo below, you can see a turtle, RN44, RV18, mom and pup. 3CU was also in the area.

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

Photo credit: G. Langley

By now, PK2’s teeth have started to erupt through her gums. Monk seals have two pair of eight teeth each for a total of 32, just like humans.

Photo credit: G. Langley

Here’s PK3. No confirmed gender yet. Still learning how the body works!

Photo credit: G. Langley

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(P)update #20

Here’s a side by side look at the size comparison of PK22/mom and pup/PK2. Give pup another week or so, and her girth will be comparable to mom’s.

RK22 and PK2 Side by SideRK22 and PK2

Today, three-year-old male RN44 hauled out near mom and pup. RN44 was born along this same stretch of beach to one of our more productive females–RH58, also known as Rocky.

RN44One other visitor on the beach–this snoozing green sea turtle.
Honu Sleeping

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