When I arrived on this morning to find mom and pup inside the enclosure, I was quite surprised. I expected them some 200 yards down the beach. Mimi, our Hawaiian monk seal coordinator for Kaua’i, had called me the night before at 9:00 to say that mom and pup had gone for a swim and, for the first time, hauled out farther down the beach. When Daniel, our volunteer who tucks the girls in at night, left at 8:00 p.m., they were snuggled under some naupaka bushes quite a distance from their usual overnight spot. I could tell by the trails that seals leave in the sand when they haul their bodies around, that our girls had vacated that spot some time before high tide.
So, I traipsed down the beach and gathered the ropes and signs that Daniel had erected and re-erected them as a secondary barrier outside the plastic fencing. While I was there a man and his dog stopped by. The dog was quite well-behaved; however, behavior–as in attacking–is only one concern when it comes to dogs and cats. Their urine and feces can transmit bacteria and diseases which monk seals are unable to fight off. Last year, we had a pup take a nose dive in a pile of horse manure that was left on the beach. You see, seals rely on heightened sense of smell to forage for food. And seals–especially pups–are curious creatures. The pup in this picture spent several minutes examining this stick. Another way seals contract leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis occurs as heavy rains wash these bacteria into the ocean. Scientists think we have lost four seals in this way in recent years. That’s why, as much as I love my dog, I leave her at home when I go on seal duty. Don’t worry, though, she gets plenty of exercise running with my husband and training on the Kauai Search and Rescue team.