There have been 18 monk seal pups born in Hawaii so far this year, federal environmental officials said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 11 on Molokai, five on Oahu and one each on Kauai and Hawaii Island, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
The agency said the number falls short of the record 48 pups born in the main Hawaiian islands last year.
Monk seals can be born any time of the year, but the number of births usually peak in the spring in summer, the agency said. Nine of the 18 this year were born in early May.
“While monk seals aren’t typically considered aggressive, a nursing mom can be very protective,” the agency said in a statement. “For some mom-pup pairs, this year was quieter than usual, due to the closure of various beach parks between late March and mid-May.”
Staff and volunteers were not able to monitor seals on shorelines as frequently as before the pandemic, but still did spot checks of the pups, the agency said.
The agency has urged people to view wildlife responsibly, keep dogs leashed and maintain a safe viewing distance from monk seals as beaches begin to reopen.
Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered and found only in Hawaii where they are protected by state and federal laws. About 1,400 monk seals remain in the wild, including about 1,100 in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and 300 in the main islands.