Dog joins hunt for Mongoose on Kauai

Zero in the underbrush looking for likely hiding places of mongooses
Zero in the underbrush looking for likely hiding places of mongooses

LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mongoose detection tools that include trail cameras, live traps, and tracking tunnels were supplemented this week with help from a dog. No not the Bounty Hunter, but man's best friend.

Zero, a smooth fox terrier, assisted the Kauai Invasive Species Committee (KISC) with ongoing mongoose detection work this week. Although two mongooses have been captured on Kauai in recent months, and traps continue to be set following ongoing credible reports island-wide, no further trapping successes have been made.

This week, KISC, partnering with the Kauai Marriott, Kauai Lagoons Golf Course, the Kauai U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge Complex, and a local flower farmer, was able to utilize an Oahu-based mongoose detection dog in their quest to determine if there are other possible mongooses on Kauai.

Mongooses are introduced predators to Hawaii and are known threats to endemic ground-nesting birds.

Zero, and his handler Kirk McCarthy, arrived on Kauai on Monday morning ready to get to work. Zero was trained on Oahu to participate nationally in trials for detecting ground-burrowing animals (called Earthdog Competitions). Since Hawaii has a short supply of woodchucks or foxes, Zero was trained to detect mongooses. Sniffing around and exploring known hiding spots that mongooses tend to utilize (like culverts, vegetative tunnels, and shady areas), Zero darts back and forth with his tail erect, indicating to his handler that he smells a fresh mongoose trail.

"I can usually tell the difference between when he smells a rat or a mongoose. He acts differently", stated McCarthy about his dog. "Once he starts chasing a mongoose, the mongoose starts leaving a pheromone trail that is much stronger and easier for the dog to detect. And Zero is fast, really fast", he added. The objective is to have the dog corner the animal so that it can be captured.

"This was a very complex operation", said Keren Gundersen, KISC Project Manager. "We worked with the Marriott Vacation Club General Manager, the Marriott Hotel Grounds Security, the Kauai Lagoons Golf Course Supervisor, the Marriott Grounds Maintenance Supervisor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services and Airport Security (due to the close proximity to the airport), and staff and crew with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge. We needed to cover all of our bases to ensure the least disturbance to resort guest, native birds, localized traffic, as well as airfield security", Gundersen stated.

Private donors generously contributed the funding needed for the project, which covered air fair, lodging, car rental, and per diem for McCarthy and his dog. Kirk McCarthy donated his labor, taking vacation time from his job with the state.

For more information about mongooses see: To report a mongoose sighting call the KISC office immediately at 821-1490.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.