Back in the saddle again

Well, I’m back full time and it feels good, other than a little swelling on the foot. We got the call to tag PK 2, who was weaned last week. A real cutie. It made for a busy morning. We met Mimi and Jamie, the heads of our seal program in Lihue and drove up to the north shore beach together. I was a little tentative, it’s a steep walk down to the beach but for the first time I had no pain. Good thing too, for the path is not only steep but also overgrown. Charlie, Mimi, and another volunteer suited up in coveralls and gloves, then we were all briefed on the procedure. All the coveralled folks would be in direct physical contact with PK2, soon to be F28. Jamie was the person to insert the tags and I was the attendant who handed first the punch, then the antiseptic, then the ID chip and last the measuring tape. The seal was a little freaked to begin with, but settled down relatively well afterwards. Tagging seal pups is stressful for them – we approach the seal from behind, while the seal is sleeping, we then prod it further up the beach, so that it can’t ‘escape’ into the water. They’ve only interacted with their mother up to this point, so when we first prod them they assume it’s their mother. And then to have three humans restrain him, and then punch holes in their flipper webbing must be scary. But all in all, F28 did well. He didn’t seem too upset though when we released him and at 7 weeks old, he measured 4’6″ in length and 3’9″ in girth. We aren’t able to weigh them, but he probably weighs between 150 to 175 pounds.

Charlie is suiting up and getting ready.

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So the actual tagging went relatively well. But the event wasn’t without a negative side. The beach where the seals like to pup is relatively isolated and hard to reach. As such it’s also a favorite of some local nudists as well as people who like isolation. The seal pup today was situated on the shore near an area that a local person has built a shrine to his deceased son. We don’t know much about this person, although we do know that he has had interactions with the police in the past. While we were in the process of tagging the seal pup, this person started ranting and raving that we were hurting and harassing the seal. He stood a few feet away, but filmed our activity, and said he was going to send photos to the island newspaper. He continued ranting and raving even after the tagging was complete. Jamie tried to explain the scientific reasons for tagging, but this person was out of control. So we all packed up and left, and wondered if we’ll see our picture in the paper. You never know what each day will bring!
On our way after the briefing.

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The actual tagging procedure.

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The confrontation.

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After the tagging, we were called to check on a turtle that had washed up on shore. We arrived to the site to meet the resident that reported it and followed him to the beach to find a green sea turtle that had been attacked by a tiger shark. His left hind flipper and part of his shell had been bitten off and sadly that killed him. We loaded the carcass and returned it to a freezer in the office, it will be shipped for a necropsy to Ohau. Even though the cause of death was obvious, the scientists will check on his health. You can see the chunk missing as well as tooth marks on it’s back. So sad but part of the natural sea.

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Tiger sharks have been quite a problem in the past couple of years on Maui and the Big Island, not so much on Kauai. There’s a website on tiger sharks that tracks them, and it shows how they travel along the shores of both Maui and the Big Island, including many of the popular tourist beaches. Google ‘tiger shark tracking Maui’ if you’re interested in seeing this.

Our morning still was not complete, as we had to check out a report of a carcass along the northeast shore. It turned out to be an old carcass of a large fish. Fortunately it wasn’t a dead seal or another turtle. Following that, the four of us stopped in Kapaa and had a good lunch at the Olympia cafe.

Charlie also had his first practice with the West Kauai Senior softball team. It was a good thing that we had been doing a little throwing and catching but even so he was pretty sore the next day. He was welcomed heartily and after the practice had a little beer with snacks. The beer was light beer and the snacks included dried ahi (fish) jerky, plums and boiled calabash. He was a little surprised by the different rules and the size of the ball but he hasn’t played for 30 years so it wasn’t too surprising that there were differences. The season is almost over, so he’s practicing with the team for next year.

We ended the week with our usual Hyatt sunrise followed by breakfast at Joe’s On The Green with our previous next door neighbor who now lives on Oahu, Nancy; Kathy; Rusty (the realtor for the folks from which we bought our house; and his wife, Sue

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