I thought, for a brief exciting moment, that these two mongooses might come to blows. The look given by the farther mongoose suggested as much. I was ready with my camera for the encounter, but it didn’t happen. Instead the two of them seemed quite content in each other’s company and spent their time scavenging in the grass for scraps of food.
A small Asian mongoose suns itself on rocks along the shoreline. The mongoose can be found in most places on the island with the exception of the higher elevations.
This pair of nene (Hawaiian goose) were grazing when they noticed the mongoose (above). A mongoose isn’t a real threat to an adult nene, but it’s a real menace to a nene’s eggs and chicks. Though these birds weren’t nesting in this area and didn’t have chicks with them, Their protective instincts kicked in and one of the birds chased the mongoose away (right).
The mongoose scurried off into the tall grass, then reappeared on the edge and took stock of the scene (below). But when it ventured out (bottom), the nene’s attitude hadn’t mellowed and another charge ensued.
This scenario was repeated a few times before the mongoose lost interest and wandered off. Mongooses are very quick and will use this tactic of feints and retreats to wear out their intended victim. In this case, like the nene, it appeared to be more going through the motions in preparation for the next time it encounters a nene nest or chicks.
On a recent hike at Pu’u Wa’awa’a, I was ambling along one of the trails when I heard squeals and a commotion in the grass a few feet off to the side. A mongoose shot out from cover hotly pursued by a second one. They took off down the trail, away from me, before vanishing into the undergrowth on the other side.
A couple of minutes later, this one reemerged, trotting away on the trail before it turned suddenly and gave me this look. I don’t think my presence had registered earlier, so it must have been a bit surprised to see me. Don’t know what happened to the other one, but since I didn’t hear any horrendous screeching, I suspect it got away.
For more information about Pu’u Wa’awa’a and its trails, go to puuwaawaa.org.
I pondered about posting this photo. I’d emailed a contact at a marine animal facility with the news that I’d found a dead turtle with a broken shell washed up among some rocks. I asked if anyone would be interested in that information, thinking some marine biologist might want to check the remains to determine the cause of death, that sort of thing.
He asked me to send a photo, which I did. Then I got a response in which he said not to send more. He’d been expecting a ‘happy turtle photo.’ I suspect he’d missed the bit about it being dead with its shell broken in two.
This is a less graphic photo taken a day later, by which time mongooses had discovered the remains. My appearance distracted them, but not enough for them to flee. The mongoose is the poster animal for catastrophic invasive species, but in this case, it’s performing something of a service in cleaning up the remains. Probably other creatures, such as crabs, also gathered for the feast.
I don’t know what happened to the turtle. Possibly it was attacked by a tiger shark or it could have died for some other reason. I doubt the ocean caught it by surprise and swept it to its death. Turtles are very good swimmers.
Here is a great candidate for exhibit A in ‘good intentions gone wrong in Hawaii.’ Back in the late 1800’s, rising rat numbers on the Big Island were causing concern, especially among sugar plantation owners. I mean, nobody wants rats around. They bite. They carry disease. They breed like crazy. They kill native birds and eat their eggs. They’re just generally nasty and a menace.
So the plantation owners brought in the small Asian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) to control the rat population. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, mongooses are diurnal, operating mostly during the day. Rats are nocturnal, active at night. So apart from the twilight hours, never the twain shall meet. In consequence, mongooses had next to no effect on the rat population. The plan was dead on arrival. Still, no harm done, right?
Not exactly. Since the mongooses weren’t subsisting on a diet of fat, juicy rats, they needed something else to eat. And one of the many things on their menu was native bird eggs. The net result was that, instead of eliminating rats, the mongoose extended the problems they caused to 24 hours a day. The effect on native birds in particular, was especially damaging. Kaua’i has a far greater abundance of birds than the Big Island, in large part because it is still, theoretically, mongoose-free.
In Hawaii, mongooses are the poster animals for the devastation wrought by invasive species because, well, they bite, they carry disease, they breed like crazy, they kill native birds and eat their eggs. In fact, they’re just generally nasty and a menace.
Here on the Big Island, mongooses are most often seen scooting across highways. A generous scattering of squashed corpses attests to those that didn’t make it.
For more information about the small Asian mongoose, go to instanthawaii.com/cgi-bin/hawaii?Animals.mongoose.