Hawaiian Monk Seal 

On the Big Island, it is rare to see a Hawaiian monk seal when going to the beach. There are certain secluded beaches where monk seals have been seen in Volcano National Park, but they can only be reaches by a difficult hike. However, when visiting Kauai, just about every beach we went to had one, sometimes two, snoozing monk seals on the beach.

Hawaiian Monk Seal

When first seeing an adorable seal on the sand posing perfectly for the camera, it may be tempting to get very close and snap a picture. If you are at a popular beach with a lot of people, generally a large circle is roped off by the Parks Department,around the seal... but not always. Just remember that these seals are protected, and you could pay a fine as high as $25,000 for disturbing one.

This sea mammal spends a great amount of it’s time at sea, but comes on shore as well. When coming across a seal on the sand, people often think that it is sick, or dying, but this is rarely the case. Usually the seal just wants to rest, or perhaps avoid a predator.

Hawaii’s beautiful coral reefs are home to many of the little critters that monk seals enjoy eating, such as lobsters, octopi, eels, and fish, but the seals are also known to dive down as far as 400 feet to feed. Monk seals can grow to be as big as 7.5 feet long and 500 to 600 pounds. The monk seal got it’s name because of its folds of skin that resemble a monk's cowl, and also because it is usually seen alone or in small groups.

The seal is called, 'Ilio holo i ka uaua, by the Hawaiians. This means, "dog that runs in rough water.” The protective mother monk seal stays with her pups continually until they are about 6 weeks old. During this time, mother seals may lose hundreds of pounds, because they stop eating.

Hawaiian Monk Seal on Kauai

Approximately 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals live in the wild, and there are many reasons why those numbers continue to decrease. Their natural habitat has been disappearing - and still is - because of the encroachment of humans. They are often drowned by getting caught in fishing nets, or injured by boats. They have natural predators as well, such as sharks, and sometimes the females fall victim to males who attack them in groups. The average life span of the Hawaiian monk seal, is 25 to 30 years. Although they are protected, their numbers continue to decrease, and have been lessening each year since 1989.

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