NAWILIWILI — A live mongoose, believed to be the first captured on Kaua‘i, was caught in a mongoose trap Wednesday by the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee at the Marriott Kaua‘i Lagoons.
Keren Gundersen, project manager of the KISC, said Pat Gmelin, the KISC Mongoose Response Technician, made the discovery while conducting his daily trap checks Wednesday morning.
“I am happy that now it is proven that the mongoose reports are actually confirmed and that my hard work has paid off, but I’m sad to think that Kaua‘i now has a very real threat to our native bird populations,” Gmelin said in a KISC release. “With the help of Bill Bukoski of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, we determined the captured mongoose was a mature male.”
KISC said traps were initially set in the Nawiliwili Harbor area following a credible sighting which was reported in Niumalu on Mar. 24.
Within 10 days, another nine reports came in of mongoose sightings in the Nawiliwili area, including at Kaua‘i Lagoons and the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and Beach Club.
KISC officials said mongooses can travel up to five miles a day.
“We want to thank the citizens who promptly reported the sightings,” Gundersen said. “We were able to get traps in place rapidly and finally capture the animal. We really rely on the public to alet us when they see dangerous pests, especially mongoose, because these animals can quickly leave an area.”
Mongooses were brought to Hawai‘i by the sugar industry in 1883 in a failed attempt to control rats in the sugar cane fields, the KISC release states. Mongooses prey on turtle eggs, birds and other animals and can be carriers of deadly diseases like leptospirosis. They currently have no natural predators in Hawai‘i to keep their numbers in check.
“Kaua‘i is the only island where mongoose were not intentionally introduced, which is why we have been successful in building populations of ground-nesting birds like the nene,” said Thomas Ka‘iakapu, the Kaua‘i manager of the state’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, in the release. “Mongoose eat eggs and chicks so they can have a devastating affect on wildlife, domestic fowl and game cocks.”
Kaua‘i wildlife managers have worried about mongooses getting established on Kaua‘i for a long time.
A lactating female was discovered dead on Kaumuali‘i Highway in Kalaheo in 1976, but none of the invasive animals have been found since then. Gundersen said there have been more than 160 credible reports of mongoose sightings in the past 44 years, with more than 70 in the last decade. These sightings have been reported from Mana to Lumaha‘i, including Koke‘e, with the highest concentration being in the Lihu‘e and Puhi areas.
Gundersen said KISC and the DOFAW have been engaged in active trapping and detection efforts in the recent years. The USDA Wildlife Services traps within the Lihu‘e Airport fence and Rana Biological Consulting, Inc., overseeing the endangered bird protection at Kaua‘i Lagoons, has been monitoring the resort grounds for avian predators.
Because funding for mongoose control is spotty, the various entities have been working together, Gundersen said. KISC is coordinating the partnerships because it currently has a Mongoose Response Technician on staff and is taking the lead in following up on sighting reports.
“Catching a live mongoose is a definite game-changer because it increases the likelihood they are already established here,” Gundersen said. “We are appealing to everyone to call us at 821-1490 and let us know about any encounter they have had with a mongoose, even if it is not recent, so we can map historical and current sightings.”
Gundersen said the reports will help KISC paint a more accurate picture of what the status of the mongoose on Kaua‘i might be.
“We really need to have this information before we can develop a sensible management plan,” she said. “The most logical and immediate reaction is to beef up predator control in high-value areas such as wildlife refuges and bird sanctuaries.”
The captured mongoose has been euthanized, and more tests will be conducted to determine its age, possibly its diet and conduct DNA tests.
If a mongoose is sighted, call KISC at 821-1490 immediately.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.