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Feds warn public to stay away from monk seal pups on Kauai

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 10:06 p.m. HST, May 13, 2012

Federal officials are asking the public to keep their distance from two newborn Hawaiian monk seals for the safety of the pups and viewers on Kauai.

“The mother and pups need to nurse without being disturbed,” said Jeff Walters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Mother seals will protect their pups if they feel threatened.”

Both of the pups are about 3 weeks old and are nursing on Kauai’s windward side, said Walters, chief of the Marine Mammal Branch of NOAA.

The first pup, a female, was born April 23 on Aliomanu Beach. Its mother, a seal with the identification tag RK13, garnered attention when it was seen recovering in a Kauai canal in December from an apparent shark bite.

The second pup, of unconfirmed gender, was born April 27 at Larsen’s Beach. It is near a road.

Walters said the public can go view the seals, but they should stay behind the fence line and not make loud noises.

Walters said the seals will probably nurse for about three more weeks. The young seals will stay in the area for three to six months after their mothers leave, placing them at risk of becoming accustomed to humans. The newly independent seals could be lonely or curious and approach people, but people shouldn’t interact with them or feed them, Walters said.

Authorities had to remove a monk seal from the wild in 2009 because it became accustomed to people and began holding people underwater while playing. The seal, Hoailona, also known as KP2, now lives at the Waikiki Aquarium.

Hoailona’s mother, RK22, is the same mother of the pup born at Larsen’s Beach.

Only about 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals exist, but their population is declining at about 4 percent a year.

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