Drivers surprised to find monk seal lounging along Maui highway

Photo: Yunmi Abbott

An unusual sight caught drivers’ attention along a busy highway on Maui.

A viewer sent us photos of a Hawaiian monk seal resting just off Honoapiilani Highway.

“(Her) nose was basically on the asphalt of road. It turned around and headed back to ocean, but it only went maybe about 5 to 10 feet and came to rest at that location,” said Thorne Abbott. “I’m not sure who was more scared me or (her), because (she) was heading right out into traffic.”

Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they believe the strong south swell and king tides raised water levels high enough for the seal to venture near the roadway.

“It looked to me as if the seal just wanted a place to rest on a beach. The beach is normally dry, however under current high tide and king tides and south swell, the water is up to the road and so the beach is much, much narrower than what it normally would be,” Abbott said.

NOAA staff was able to move the seal back to the beach using boards.

Officials say the seal is a 14-year-old female who has given birth to six pups. She was not hurt.

The Maui Police Department directed traffic while NOAA moved the seal.

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