Officials find pregnant Hawaiian monk seal dead on beach

HONOLULU (AP) — Wildlife officials reported the death of a pregnant Hawaiian monk seal who was found at a beach on Kauai.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the seal known as R313 was found April 25, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

Another female monk seal named Honey Girl, or R5AY, was found dead of unknown causes on an Oahu beach April 23.

NOAA’s marine mammal stranding network partners have adjusted their response to strandings, deaths and entanglements and are unable to perform full necropsies because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We used the fewest number of people possible, followed social distancing protocols, and used personal protective equipment while transporting the carcass to a remote location for burial,” NOAA said in an online post.

The agency’s ability to conduct typical postmortem examinations including necropsy was “extremely limited” by health regulations resulting from the pandemic, which was also the case with Honey Girl.

NOAA preserved R313’s fetus and placenta and plans to perform a necropsy and sampling as soon as possible, which may provide additional information on the cause of her death.

R313, first identified on Kauai in 2009, was at least 15 years old at the time of her death, NOAA said.

Staff and volunteers with NOAA and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources did not observe R313 with a pup, but tracked her growing size, a sign she could be pregnant.

Officials believe that like many Kauai seals, she gave birth to her pups at a more remote beach on Niihau.