11/17/01 - Sorry for the delay, but i am just getting back to the office and collecting mail. I've set up a short list for the mail (assuming that this goes for a while) with Mike, Dave, Rob, Kim and Dana in the distribution. Let me know if you do not want the spam. Anyway, I am working through the data, but will probably not have much until Monday. The quick news is good/bad. The good news is that we are getting signals and locations for each day. The bad news is that there are not a lot of good locations, and they are not going in the right direction. Not getting many locations at the start of a track is not unusual, as animals seem to move pretty fast and do not spend a lot of time at the surface to start, so that might be all it is.
As for the direction, the most recent location I have right now (from about 2:00 Am this morning) had him about 12 miles off shore along the northern edge of the Chesapeake. Looks like he wants back to Baltimore. This dance (I go to Baltimore, the seal goes to Riverhead, I go to Blue Hill, the seal goes to Baltimore) is giving me a headache. Anyway, he is not showing signs of hauling out, and is pretty far offshore. If I can get any new info later this afternoon Ill let you know.
11/20/01 - Below is the data for "Assateague" the hooded seal released by the National Aquarium in Baltimore along with the Riverhead Foundation in Riverhead New York. I have also attached a map of the data I have so far.
Good news and not so good news here. The seal was released on the 9th of November from Long Island New York. The seal had been transported north to get a head start on what should have been a long trip back to home range. To meet up with other hooded seals along the east coast, this would mean a trip to at least the gulf of the St. Lawrence, south of Newfoundland. Sounds like a long trip, but we have seen animals make this trip (see hooded seal "Jersey" in the WhaleNet archive).
After a quick trip offshore immediately after release the track swings back to shallow coastal water and heads south. The last signal from the tag came from just offshore of Virginia Beach, Virginia on Saturday morning (around 1500hrs GMT). Since then we have gotten no new signals.
It is possible that the loss of signals is temporary. If the seal hauled out for long enough, the tag would shut itself down. If the seal hauled out and rolled on the tag, signals would be blocked. In any case, we should again begin getting signals when the tag restarts. The worry is that we have not heard for a couple of days, and the longer the tag is silent, the less likely it is that we will hear form it again. (the longest I have had a tag go silent and show up again?....five days....) At this point all we can do is wait and keep our fingers crossed....
The time that the tag shut down is roughly the time the tag was programmed to shut down for the day, so it seems that the tag was working normally at the time. The tag is programmed to begin transmission again at 00hrs GMT.
Whenever we loose signals from a tag, there are only three possibilities:the attachment failed (and the tag fell off), the tag malfunctioned (and is no longer signaling) or something happened to the seal, and the tag is no longer coming to the surface. At this point it is a little too soon to say what might have happened, however it is doubtful that the tag would have simply fallen off this soon after release. The fact that the tag shut down that close to shore makes it seem quite possible that the seal was in the process of hauling out when the tag shut down, but we will have to wait to see what happens from here.
Hopefully I'll be back to you with more later this week....
Keep your fingers crossed...
11/24/01 - No new news from the missing hooded seal. I will let you know if anything happens over the weekend, but Saturday will make it a week with no signals, so I would say it is not likely to show up. The likely story is that the seal got out of the water while the tag was duty cycling for the day) and managed to damage the tag. For that tag the antennas are notoriously prone to snapping off at the base, so I would have to think that might be what happened. Dave said that when they released the seal the first thing he did was to get out of the cage and roll around on his back and try to scrape the tag off. So too much of that kind of stuff would be too much for that kind of tag. Oh well looks like that one was short and sweet. Anyway, I'll let you know if anything pops. Meanwhile I'll collar the folks from Wildlife computers and see what is up with the tags we ordered and see when they might be ready...
12/8 - Hey folks, Well we may have a bit more information on our hooded seal "Assateague". For three days, 11/28,29,and 30 we received a few signals from his tag. Several of the signals were good enough to also get location fixes. The signals came in several clusters that appear to have been sent when the seal was either hauled out or hanging at the surface for a long period of time. In one case the satellite received ten signals in one overpass. This would mean that the seal was on the surface for nearly the entire pass (about ten minutes). Generally this would mean that the seal was hauled out. Because of the intermittent transmissions, it almost certainly means that the reason we have lost regular transmissions is due to damage to the tag. Likely damage to the antennae. The other thing we seem to have learned is that "Assateague" is not far from the location where we last received signals over two weeks ago. This is a bit unusual as we do not often see hooded seals remaining in one area that long. Also this is unusual because the location is just north of the mouth of the Chesapeake. Not the usual territory for a hooded seal. Since the 29th we have not gotten any additional signals, but it appears that the tag is sending signals (we just are not getting them). Hopefully, we will get lucky and get more occasional "hits", but meantime we will just have to wait and see. I have attached a map of the recent locations as a jpg file. 12/17/01 - Here are a couple of more locations from the hooded seal from several days ago. It appears that these are coming from much the same locations as the previous ones about two weeks ago) (about five to seven miles offshore from just north of the mouth of the Chesapeake). While this is not what you would call hooded seal home range, we have seen hoods stay in one general location for as long as a month or so (see "Bubba"). While these locations do not have a high degree of accuracy, we can be pretty sure that the transmitter has stayed in the same general location since that initial southward run. Still very strange, but we will see if we continue to get locations what we might be able to figure out. These two locations, do not appear to have come while the tag was at the surface for a long time (they were only the result of a couple of "hits" per pass). It is a little hard to say, for sure given the sketchy information we have been getting from this tag.