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Mongoose (photo by Don Hebert

St. John USVI Fauna: Mongoose

The mongoose looks like a stretched-out squirrel that is often seen speeding about the island.

The history of the mongoose in St. John demonstrates the usual result of man's interference in the natural order of things. The Danes brought mice and rats to these islands in the ships coming from Europe and Africa. The mice and rats ate or spoiled large quantities of the valuable sugar which the planters had been so painstakingly cultivating.

The mongoose was brought here from India to control the rat population. Unfortunately the rats in the Virgin Islands are nocturnal and live in trees during the day. They were therefore able to eat as much sugar as they wanted by night, while the mongoose were sleeping and were safe, during the day, from the mongoose, which cannot climb trees.

Mongoose RiddleThe mongoose did have a great impact on other species, though. Mongooses sought out chickens, ground nesting birds and their eggs as well as turtle, lizard and iguana eggs. The rats meanwhile were free to eat the planter's sugar and the eggs of tree nesting birds.

The mongoose became a nuisance for farmers and an environmental problem. This was officially recognized at least as early as 1936. In that year there was only one sign posted in all of St. John. It was nailed to the palm tree nearest the town dock in Cruz Bay. It was signed by the Government Secretary and embossed with the government seal. It announced a bounty, dead or alive, for mongooses. Fifteen cents for a male and twenty five cents for a female.

There is an old Virgin Island saying: Mongoose say: "If I had a cent, I would leave this island" Chicken say: "If I had a cent, I would lend it to you."

(Mongoose Photo by Don Hebert)

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