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Mongooses in Hawaii – Cute or Conniving?

IMG_2692_2Have you ever seen a mongoose skittering around Hawaii? Mongooses in Hawaii (yes, “mongooses,” not “mongeese”) are cute, maybe, but most importantly, they’re a nuisance and potentially quite dangerous.

Mongooses are not native to Hawaii. They were originally brought over in the 1800s to control rat populations because mongooses eat rats. Unfortunately, rats are mainly nocturnal and mongooses are not, so although they do control the rat population somewhat, they really aren’t all that effective at it.

What mongooses in Hawaii are good at is killing and eating a whole bunch of other wildlife, most of which is very precious to our culture and ecosystem. Mongooses eat snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and birds’ eggs, and even small cats. There are many reports of these devious creatures spitting at hens or even whistling at them to distract them while they swipe their eggs. They are fierce and, unfortunately, they have no natural predators here in Hawaii (unlike India, where they originate from).

One of the worst things about mongooses in Hawaii is that they are carriers of a bacteria called “leptospirosis.” This is a potentially lethal bacteria that is found in mongoose droppings and can contaminate Hawaii’s streams, which is why it is not generally safe in Hawaii to swim in streams or ponds. In other words, these animals are not just a threat to other wildlife, but to humans, as well.

Mongooses look something like a cross between squirrels and rats (kind of like weasels) and have nothing at all to do with geese. Their scientific name is “Herpestes javanicus” – even that sounds pretty unfriendly, doesn’t it? Mongooses are totally unwelcome in Hawaii, so if you happen to see one, don’t feed it and definitely don’t try to approach or touch it!

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