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Thursday, January 29, 2004



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STAR-BULLETIN / OCTOBER 2003
"Lucky" the monk seal, who spent most of his time in Port Allen, Nawiliwili Harbor and the mouth of a small canal in Kapaa, was found dead last Thursday on a Kapaa beach.



Monk seal found
dead on Kauai

"Lucky" was most known for
begging for food near Nawiliwili


LIHUE >> A Hawaiian monk seal known to local fisherman as "Lucky" and to biologists as K07 was found dead on a Kapaa beach last Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said yesterday.

There was no evidence of any injury. Although a necropsy was conducted, biologists must wait several weeks for the results to determine whether Lucky died of natural causes such as bacterial infection or disease.

In October, NOAA reminded the public not to feed or interact with any monk seals after Lucky was seen hanging around the small boat harbor in Nawiliwili, apparently begging food from people on the docks.

The Hawaiian monk seal is an endangered species. Its normal life span is 25 to 30 years, and Lucky was an older male seal, weighing about 425 pounds.

Brad Ryon, a NOAA Fisheries marine biologist, said it was impossible to determine his exact age.

Finding a dead seal on a beach and being able to study it to determine the cause of death is quite rare, Ryon said. On average only one dead seal is found every year in the main Hawaiian islands.

Lucky had hauled himself up on the beach before dying, and his body was discovered soon afterward by a Kapaa resident. The seal's body was quickly packed in ice.

Lucky had never been tagged or numbered -- biologists often use bleach to place an identifying number on the seals' fur -- so little is known about his history. But his many scars, particularly on his right shoulder, made him easy to identify.

"He's been around Kauai for about a year," Ryon said. "The local fishermen named him 'Lucky' because all his scars showed he survived some major injuries in the past. He spent most of his time in Port Allen, Nawiliwili Harbor and most recently near the mouth of a small canal in Kapaa.

"One Kapaa fisherman reported offering him some food recently, but he wouldn't take it."

Although Lucky was also seen at Poipu Beach, he was not among the monk seals who were chasing tourists out of the water at Poipu Beach last year. Those were younger seals, and Ryon said biologists refer to that group as "The Brats."

Most Hawaiian monk seals live in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.

Volunteer seal watchers on Kauai have reported the monk seal population on the Garden Island has been increasing over the past decade and that the seals do not avoid humans. The number of pups born on Kauai also has been increasing.

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