A Hawaiian monk seal pup has been found dead on Kauai, an apparent victim of a dog attack, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The pup was found early Tuesday morning on a secluded beach on the island’s North Shore. The nursing pup and its mother had been protected by a Seal Protection Zone with fencing monitored by volunteers.
Officials say sometime between late evening Monday and early morning hours on Tuesday, a dog was able to get around the fence on the ocean side of the enclosure and apparently attacked and killed the pup.
A necropsy conducted by NOAA Fisheries Service on Tuesday evening confirmed the cause of death as trauma caused most likely by dog bite.
The mother was also injured with puncture wounds to her muzzle, presumably in an attempt to protect her pup.
Three other seals in the area were also found to have injuries consistent with a dog attack, officials said. Another mother-pup pair and a weaned seal also showed puncture wounds consistent with dog attack. These wounds were not thought to be life-threatening.
NOAA will monitor the four injured seals and provide further treatment if needed.
The dead pup was the the third pup born to the mother known as K28, or “KC,” who has given birth in the past on Oahu and Niihau.
State and federal law enforcement officials have been notified of the incident.
While it may have been a feral dog involved in the attack, the public is reminded to always keep dogs on a leash when on the beach or anywhere where seals may be present, and to always follow applicable leash laws.
The Hawaiian monk seal is a critically endangered species with less than 1,200 left in a declining population.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at 888-256-9840.
The following photos provided by NOAA show the seal’s muzzle wounds and scratches.