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Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 277 seal sightings this month. This included 32 individually identified seals.

  • October: 277
  • September: 400
  • August: 320
  • July: 311
  • June: 283
  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229

New:

·       Five large dogs harassed and possibly bit an adult seal at Makua at Cannon’s surf break (near Tunnels surf break). It appeared one man brought all 5 dogs to the beach and allowed them to run off leash and did very little to stop them from harassing and chasing the seal off the beach. Photos were submitted of the dogs and owner, and sent to DOCARE and Humane Society for further action. All seals seen in the area since are in good health and show no signs of dog bite injuries.

Updates:

·       Continue to closely monitor yearling RP32 who is in thin body condition. The seal is likely in pre-molt.

·       PK3 weaned from mother RK28 after 40 days of nursing. The pup was flipper tagged with Q78 and Q79 tags and vaccinated. His new ID is RQ78. The pup has remained in his natal area and is thriving.

Molting: 5 seals molted this past month.

Vaccination: Vaccinated weaned pup RQ78.

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 400 seal sightings this month. This included 41 individually identified seals.

  • September: 400
  • August: 320
  • July: 311
  • June: 283
  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251

New:

·       Nothing to report.

Updates:

·       Continue to closely monitor yearling RP32 who is in thin body condition. The seal is likely in pre-molt.

·       RK28 gave birth to PK3 (3rd pup of the year for Kauai). The usual signage was erected and the pup watch schedule continued. The male pup is thriving, and weaned in early October (which will be reported in the next report).

Molting: 5 seals molted this past month.

Bleaching: 3 seals were bleach marked.

Vaccination: Vaccinated weaned pup RQ52.

Last week, a visitor exploring the coastline on the north shore of Kauai discovered two monk seals and called the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline. 

Because one of the seals was bleach-marked with a noticeable “V6” on its side, the seal was able to be identified as RQ60

RQ60 was born earlier this year. She was reported to be hauled out on rocks at a remote pocket cove near Princeville. This is the first sighting of her in this area. She weaned earlier this summer on July 15th and, almost immediately, started exploring the coastline beyond her natal beach.

Another Kauai seal, RK42 is on the move, too. RK42 was born in 2018 to one-time regular pupper RK13, and she was recently sighted off Molokai.

It’s not unusual for Hawaiian monk seals to seem to have favorite haunts; however, it’s also not unusual for them to explore far and wide. Read this post to learn more about the many Hawaiian monk seals with a Kauai – Kaena Point (Oahu) connection. 

Wrapping 39 days of nursing, a thin RK28 was last seen with her pup on October 3rd. She’s now, foraging to replenish her lost energy stores while PK3 is learning how to forage on his own.

PC: A Kaufmann
PC: A Kaufmann

PK3 will be flipper-tagged in the next couple weeks. Meanwhile, one way to identify him is by a natural bleach mark on his mid-back.

PC: A Kaufmann

PK3 pupped at a low birth weight, but by weaning had certainly plumped up to a healthy size.

PC: M. Olry

For now, PK3 is in his mouthy stage, exploring the nearshore waters, as well as, the beach for what might be tasty.

PC: R Kulhanek

Earlier this year, a volunteer with mālama i nā honu reported a green sea turtle hauled out at Poipu had a large orange bobber and monofilament line encircling her right fore flipper. After examination and concern about the line cutting off circulation, the turtle was captured and flown to Maui Ocean Center where radiographs revealed a pathological fracture to the bone, requiring surgical amputation in order to save the turtle. 

After surgery and about three weeks of care, the turtle—sporting an identification of KA43—was returned to Poipu Beach and released. She immediately head for the water, making good strokes, and swam off. She has since been reported basking on the beach at Poipu. 

According to NOAA Sea Turtle Recovery Coordinator Irene Kelly, turtles with three flippers seem to do just fine, including making long migration swims. However, there can be some challenges. A male who loses a fore flipper may not be able to grasp a female properly during mating. A female who loses a hind flipper may not be able to dig a nest chamber. So reproduction success may be compromised.

The good news is KA43 is female, and she lost her right fore flipper, meaning she should be able to dig nest chambers just fine. 

Unfortunately, entanglements with fishing line and gear are on the rise in the main Hawaiian Islands. Thankfully, a group of divers are helping clean up harbors where sea turtles have been known to get entangled and die.

Hoʻmalu Ke Kai is a community organization dedicated to helping with the marine debris issue plaguing our island. They help with beach cleanups and, even, underwater cleanups at Kukuiʻula and Ahukini harbors. 

It takes a hui of concerned people to care for Kauai’s wildlife.

The more surprising whale species spotted on extremely rare occasions in Hawaiian waters is the killer whale (Orcinus orca). In late August, Cascadia Research Collective sighted a group of killer whales off Kona and, for only the third time, were able to deploy a satellite tag on a single individual. A couple days after tagging, the research team re-located the individual and its group and witnessed as the killer whales tossed a dwarf sperm whale into the air in their successful pursuit of it. (Dwarf sperm whales can grow up to eight feet in length. Killer whales grow to an average of 20 to 26 feet.) Killer whales in Hawaiian waters are known to have a generalist diet, feeding on cephalopods, sharks, and other marine mammals.

As of September 24, the tag was still transmitting data, showing the group was still cruising the Hawaiian Islands. According to a Facebook post by Cascadia Research Collective, they have photo-identified 77 different individuals in Hawaiian waters. The satellite-tagged individual was confirmed to match a group seen off Kona a year earlier.

In 2008, an emaciated killer whale stranded at Brennecke’s Beach on the south shore and was euthanized. She was reported to be in extremely poor condition.

Click here to learn more about killer whales in Hawaiian waters.

Click on the link below to see photos and tracking maps of the tagged killer whale and its group.

Like normal growing pups, PK3 is spending more and more time in the water. He’s long, robust, and growing quickly. RK28 seems to be holding her weight, too. PK3 is 25 days old today, so should have another 2-3 weeks with his mom. PK3’s three-year-old sister, RL28, has been hanging out nearby lately too.

The Kauai team logged 320 seal sightings this month. This included 32 individually identified seals.

  • August: 320
  • July: 311
  • June: 283
  • May: 248
  • April: 294
  • March: 292
  • February: 233
  • January: 233
  • December: 267
  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213

New:

·       RK28 gave birth to PK3 (3rd pup of the year for Kauai) on the north shore. The usual signage was erected and the pup watch schedule continued. The male pup is thriving.

·       Closely monitored yearling RP32 who is in thin body condition. The seal is likely in pre-molt.

Updates:

·       RP28 – hooked and trailing line. Hook was non-life threatening in right corner of the mouth. Removed leader with metal swivel using a seat belt cutter mounted on a pole. Will monitor RP28, anticipate hook will come out on its own. UPDATE: seal was re-sighted several times this month and is hook-free; the seal threw the hook on his own.

·       An adult seal was sighted at Secret’s Beach with heavy line trailing from the mouth. The seal was chased off by an off-leash dog before staff arrived. The seal’s ID is unknown and no further reports of a hooked seal have been received. UPDATE: no further reports or sightings.

·       Pup translocation: female pup PK2 who was born at Polihale to R400 was immediately translocated to the north shore after weaning. The pup was tagged RQ52 (Q52/Q53 tags) and is thriving in her new location, socializing with many other seals in the area. UPDATE: the seal has remained in the release area and is thriving.

Molting: 3 seals molted this past month.

Vaccination: Vaccinated weaned pup RQ52.

Volunteers 

·       Trained 5 new volunteers

·       Volunteer pup watch schedule is in place for the pups and weaners on the north shore.

Late last week, regular “pupper” RK28 gave birth to Kauai’s third pup of the year. Here’s a photo of RK28 and her pup hours after birth.

PC: J. Thomton

RK28 was first identified as an adult in 2003, so she’s easily a minimum of 23 years old. She’s birthed eight known pups, but there have likely been others, too. In 2008, RK28 pupped on Oahu. In 2013, she was documented with a pup on Niihau. In 2014, she pupped for the first known time on Kauai. Then, starting in 2018, she’s pupped every year here. So, she pups around.

When you get to be RK28’s age, you’ve experienced some things, and over the years, she’s made headlines in these digital pages.

In 2021, she ranked as out number one reported Hawaiian monk seal on Kauai, especially impressive because the number of days she spent with her pup last year were not included in the total. (Read more about that here.)

In 2018, RK28 was involved in a “pup-switching” event, in which pups from nearby mothers somehow get switched. In this case, there were three moms/pups on the same beach at the same time. After numerous switches, the result was RH58, also known as Rocky, started showing aggression toward her pup. After numerous attempts to re-unite her with her pup, he was taken and successfully reared on Hawaii Island at Ke Kai Ola. (Read more about that here and here.)

In 2016, RK28 was involved in a male mobbing incident that left her with significant scarring on her back. (Read more about that here.)

In 2014, sadly, RK28 was involved in a horrific dog attack that left her two-week-old pup dead. (Read more about that here.)

Luckily, RK28’s recent pups are known to still be hanging around Kauai. They include: RKA4, RL28, RM28, and RP28. This year, both RM28 and RP28 were involved in hooking events.

This year’s pup has already been identified as male. He’s on the thin side, so it’s good to see him nursing, as in this photo.

PC: K. Rogers
PC: K. Rogers

The male Hawaiian monk seal pup known as Koalani has been relocated from the busy Kaimana Beach in Waikīkī to a remote Oahu shoreline. The move was made, according to NOAA, to “…allow Koalani to grow up wild and in the company of other monk seals, rather than surrounded by thousands of people every day during the most impressionable period of his life.”

Koalani is the 14th pup of RH58, also known as “Rocky,” and the second pup she’s birthed on Oahu. Her other 12 pups were born on Kauai. Rocky weaned Koalani on the evening of August 18th. During the transfer process, Koalani was given his permanent NOAA ID of RQ58. His flipper tags read Q58 (left) and Q59 (right). A satellite tag was also attached to his back to allow NOAA to monitor his movements over the coming weeks. When he was released at the new location, he headed to the water and began exploring the area and is reported to be doing well.

All images courtesy: DLNR

With the translocation of Koalani, state officials ended their 24-hour-a-day presence of DOCARE officers. According to a DLNR press release, the unprecedented law enforcement visibility started on August 3, after DLNR leadership responded to concerns about the safety of the seals and people. In July, a swimmer encountered the seals in the water near the Natatorium, and the protective mother seal bit her and caused minor injuries. The incident highlighted the real risks facing both the animals and curious humans who intentionally or inadvertently got too close.

During the two-week-long DOCARE presence on the beach and in the water, officers did not cite anyone for a violation termed “obstruction of a government operation.”

DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla stated, “Our men and women responded in force knowing that protection of our natural resources and public safety are part and parcel of DOCARE’s core mission. We haven’t calculated all the personnel costs, but we estimate the total time devoted to overwatch of the monk seals to be more than 500 manhours.”

The statement further shared that officers enforced a 50-yard cordon on the beach and in the ocean during the operation, which mirrors NOAA guidance for people to stay at least 150-feet away from resting or swimming seals. While no citations were issued, they did have to shoo away several swimmers who got too close to the animals.

All images courtesy: DLNR