Maui News

Gunshot Wound is Confirmed as Cause of Death for Moloka‘i Monk Seal

December 21, 2021, 9:17 AM HST
* Updated December 22, 9:15 AM
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NOAA Fisheries has confirmed that Hawaiian monk seal L11 is confirmed to be the victim of an intentional killing by gunshot wound to the head. The young female seal was found dead on Molokaʻi on Sept. 19, 2021. This marks the third confirmed intentional killing of a monk seal on Molokaʻi in 2021 and the seventh on Molokaʻi in the past decade.

“These intentional killings of this endangered species is devastating to the recovery of this population. We are committed to engaging with partners and community members to exchange information and support protection of natural resources and cultural traditions on Molokaʻi,” according to a spokesperson with NOAA Fisheries.

L11 snoozes on the sand at Kalaupapa National Historical Park (Credit: National Park Service/G. Puig-Santana)

A postmortem analysis determined that the young female suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment. Further testing by NOAA to determine whether the seal had any diseases is underway but is not expected to change the conclusion of the postmortem examination, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement investigated several other seal deaths on Moloka‘i this year but their exact causes of death were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances. 

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward. Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands.”   

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In a web posting today, NOAA expressed its gratitude to the quick response mounted by Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response, DLNR, and others. “These individuals ensured that L11’s carcass was collected promptly and preserved in fresh condition, which enhanced the quality of the postmortem analyses,” the blog noted. 

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OLE and DOCARE are urging anyone with information about deaths of Hawaiian Monk Seals to contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR (3567) or via the DLNRTip app. The intentional killing of a monk seal is both a state and federal crime. OLE may issue rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction. 

Hawaiian Monk Seal Deaths on Molokaʻi 1/1/2020–12/13/2021 (Source: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration)
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