- Any of numerous small carnivores of the civet family found in
Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. There are more than 40 species,
belonging to about 15 genera.
are small, short-legged animals with pointed noses, small ears, and
long, furry tails. The claws are nonretractile, and in most species
there are five toes on each foot. The fur is gray to brown and is
commonly grizzled or flecked with lighter gray. Markings, when
present, include stripes, dark legs, and pale or ringed tails. The
adult size varies considerably and ranges from 7–10 inches,
exclusive of the 6–8 inch tail, in the dwarf mongoose to 32–36
inches, exclusive of the 8–12 inch tail, in the small-toothed
mongoose, or falanouc.
are active, bold predators. They live in burrows and feed on small
mammals, birds, reptiles, eggs, and occasionally fruit. Most species
are diurnal and land-dwelling. Some mongooses live alone or in pairs,
and others, such as the banded and dwarf mongooses, live in large
groups. Litters contain two to four young.
number of mongooses will attack and kill poisonous snakes. They depend
on speed and agility, darting at the head of the snake and cracking
the skull with a powerful bite. They are not immune to venom, as
popularly believed, nor do they seek and eat an herbal remedy if
species of mongoose was introduced into Hawaii and the West Indies to
control rodents and snakes. The results were disastrous, because the
mongooses severely damaged the populations of the native fauna.
Because of the potential destructiveness of the animals, importation
of mongooses of any species into the United States is strictly
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