Mongoose sighting could pay off

LIHU’E — Sometimes, it’s not nice to be wanted.

Officials with the Kauai Invasive Species Committee (KISC) have placed the mongoose on the top-10, most-wanted list, and are asking help from members of the public to report suspected sightings of the rodent, states a press release.

Although widely believed not to exist on Kaua’i, the only major populated Hawaiian Island where the mongoose has not become a major problem to ground-nesting birds and turtles who lay their eggs in sand, there have been recent credible evidence that at least a “low-level population” of mongooses exists on Kaua’i, state KISC leaders in the press release.

In addition to island-wide mongoose sightings, KISC leaders said confirmed tracks, and even a road kill, have added to the evidence of a potential low-level population on the island.

In the fall of 2004, a trackboard was sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials on the Big Island, and the tracks were concluded to be, with 85 percent certainty, belonging to a mongoose, KISC leaders said in the press release.

In 1976, a lactating female, with scars from pregnancy, was found after being hit by a car on the Wahiawa bridge near Kalaheo. Almost 30 years later, the question remains: where are her descendants?

KISC leaders are trying to track them down, with their sights set on a capture.

“The key to a capture is early reporting,” said Jackie Kozak, in charge of outreach relations for KISC.

“If you have ever seen a mongoose, then you know that they move fast, so the sooner we get the call, the sooner we can be on their trail,” said Kozak.

The mongoose has been named one of KISC’s “Top Ten Most Wanted,” not only for its threat to birds and turtles, but also for being so elusive on Kaua’i, the KISC officials said in the press release.

KISC leaders hope that, with the resolve of Amos Arashiro, KISC full-time mongoose tracker, and help from members of the public, Kaua’i will continue to be an island without mongoose.

Leaders of KISC have made a New Year’s resolution to capture a mongoose in 2006, and are offering a $100 reward to anyone who can help them do it. The reward money was put up by owners and operators of Kauai Nursery & Landscaping.

KISC leaders announced that the first person who reports a mongoose sighting that leads to a capture will earn the reward.

KISC officials have initiated the reward in hopes of raising community awareness about the possible presence of mongoose on Kaua’i, they said.

Historically, it had been thought that Kaua’i was spared from the invasion of this pest which can be found on all of the other Hawaiian Islands.

Anyone who has visited O’ahu, Maui, Moloka’i, or the Big Island, has likely seen this nuisance darting across the road, said KISC leaders in the press release.

A native to India, mongoose were brought to the islands in hopes of controlling the rat population, a move that has proven to be a mistake, according to KISC officials.

Because the mongoose is diurnal (active during the day) and the rat is nocturnal (active during the night), they never see each other, and instead, the mongoose feasts upon the eggs and young of native birds and turtles.

“It would be devastating” if mongoose became established on Kaua’i, said Brenda Zaun, wildlife biologist at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Kaua’i is internationally known for hosting a diverse and impressive waterbird and seabird population, as well as the state’s only growing population of nene, or Hawaiian goose.

An established mongoose population would change all of that, Zaun explained in the press release. “Our birds already have to fight off cats and rats. The mongoose would be absolutely awful for our ground-nesting species.”

Kathleen Misajam, a biological technician with the Nene Recovery Project at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, speaks from first-hand experience as she notes, “We just lose so many eggs. The nene aren’t even given a chance.”

Mongooses are a problem that Will Seitz, Hawksbill turtle specialist for the park, also wrestles with. Seitz feels that “Kaua’i is so lucky not to have an established (mongoose) population. We have to trap thousands of mongooses every year, just so that the hatchlings can reach the water.”

Arashiro and others at KISC take seriously the comments of the Neighbor Island specialists.

Arashiro was hired in response to the various, credible sightings that have been called in to KISC, states the press release.

However, his task of finding mongoose has been made more difficult due to the fact that sightings have been reported from all over the island, said KISC leaders in the press release.

People needing to report a mongoose sighting should call KISC at 246-0684.

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