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Hawaiian monk seal appears uninjured after chase by dogs

KAILUA-KONA — There did not appear to be any injuries among a group of Hawaiian monk seals after one of the animals was chased by unleashed dogs on the Big Island, officials said.

The chase last week in North Kona resulted in the Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital dispatching personnel to monitor the seals, West Hawaii Today reported Monday.

Megan McGinnis, an animal care manager for the mammal center, said facility was notified of “several off-leash dogs scaring a resting monk seal into the water.”

It was not known which seal was chased by the dogs because the report did not include the number of a tag affixed to the seal, she said.

Personnel accounted for all of the monk seals monitored by the mammal center that normally frequent the Kona area.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was notified of the chase involving the seal, which is protected by the Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species acts and state law, McGinnis said.

The public needs to “follow posted signage about safe wildlife viewing habits to protect themselves, their pets and monk seals,” McGinnis said.

“Although the Center actively monitors monk seals that frequent Big Island beaches to check on their condition, our experts do not serve in a law enforcement capacity,” McGinnis said.

Fines for an off-leash dog attacking a resting monk seal vary, according to NOAA’s Pacific Islands Regional Office and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

Owners have been fined up to $2,000 when their dogs attack resting seals, NOAA said in a statement.

“Dog bite wounds can be lethal if they impact vital structures” on monk seals, NOAA said.

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