Officials probe fourth Hawaiian monk seal death

HONOLULU (AP) - Federal and state officials are investigating the fourth suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal in six months after a male seal was found dead in northeastern Kauai.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser ( ) reported the 3-year-old seal was found dead on Sunday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's monk seal recovery coordinator, Jeff Walters, says the seal known as RA16 and nicknamed "Noho" grew up in Kauai waters.

Hawaiian monk seals are found only in the Hawaiian Islands and are critically endangered.

It's a federal and state crime to kill or harm one of the animals. In 2010, the state increased the penalties for hurting one of the mammals, making it a felony, after three of them were found killed on Kauai and Molokai.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)