Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hawaiian Mongoose

If I ever moved to Hawaii, one thing I would miss is the lack of large mammals. The largest mammal (other than the human) is a wild pig. There are no deer, moose or bear like we have here in Vermont. One of our first wild life sightings, while vacationing in HI, was of a tiny creature that looked like a fuzzy ground squirrel.  

On second sight, it looked like a mink or an ermine, but it was actually a mongoose. Mongooses are not native to Hawaii, but are from Asia.

In 1800's the Pacific Islands had a huge rat problem.  The booming sugar cane crop attracted vermin without enough natural predators on the island to control their population.  The rats were destroying crops at such a rate that something needed to be done to control them. In 1883, 73 Indian mongooses were introduced to the island of Hawai'i. The problem here is that not only doesn't the mongoose have any natural predators but mongoose hunt during the day while rats are nocturnal. Mongoose did eventually control the rat population but it took a very long time. In the meantime, mongoose became a pest rivaling the rats. A male mongoose reaches puberty in four months and the female has litters of two to five a year. The mongoose also feeds, among other things, on goose eggs.  The Hawaiian state bird, the nene, is now driven to the edge of extinction mostly due to the mongoose.

Human beings are the only predators of the mongoose in Hawaii. Residence are urged to trap them. One interesting way of killing a mongoose ... beeping your horn at it while it is in the road in front of you. In order to turn their heads and look, they have stop. I think I would have a hard time doing this, but in the long run, it seems like the right things to do.


Olga said...

We had a trip to New Zealand several years ago. There are deer, fox and rabbits over running that place--all brought in for the Enlish settlers to hunt. Possum and stoats are major pests there as well and people told us it was a law that you had to run over them if you had the chance. Kind of sad to lose a unique species like the kiwi bird because someone missed hunting days.

Mark Peloquin said...

New Zealand is on my bucket list. Hopefully, there are kiwi left by then.