Firstly, Mongoose versus Meerkat.
A meerkat is a type of Mongoose and is not the Afrikaans name for Mongoose. Mongoose in Afrikaans is a Muishond – direct translation to English is mouse dog.
Meerkats are gregarious by nature but not all mongoose are, some being solitary and only finding others when its time to mate. There are number of advantages that the meerkats have over their solitary cousins and one of which is they always have sentinels or guards looking out for danger. Once an alarm is sounded they scurry around kicking up dust as a sort of smoke screen as they run for cover usually to a burrow or ‘bolt hole’ nearby.
Both mongooses and meerkats will take on snakes and are usually victorious. They are incredibly fast little animals and their tactic is to tire the snake out by nipping its tail. Once the snake tires and is a bit slower the mongoose/meerkat bites it behind it head, killing it. If the snake wins it is usually because the mongoose is not very experienced. A mongoose has resistance to snake venom but the meerkats resistance is not as high as their cousins. A mongoose bitten by a cobra typically has the mongoose laying low for a few hours before recovering. Most other animals of equal size would be dead.
A mongoose is an omnivore – eating both meat and vegetation but it diet would typically include insects, rodents, birds, earthworms, crabs and even eggs when available. They are quite ingenious when cracking an egg open. Flicking it backwards through their back legs at a rock lined up behind them.
A mongoose is incredibly brave and aggressive when threatened. I once had the pleasure of watching a mongoose having a go at an eagle on the ground. I can only assume that the eagle must have been a young one and messed up its attack on the mongoose and found itself on the ground.
The mongoose was aggressively advancing on the eagle in short sprints, not giving the eagle time to get airborne but forcing it to defend itself. The eagle kept raising a talon towards the mongoose with each attack, opening its wings probably in an attempt to keep its balance but maybe also trying to look bigger. The little mongoose kept up the pattern of attacks until the eagle was clearly waiting for each attack. Then the mongoose sprinted for cover leaving a bewildered eagle on the lawn.
This mongoose became quite friendly with our family and when we had bacon we would feed some to the mongoose with it becoming tame enough to take it from our hands. We never tried to hold the animal and did not do this too often as their systems aren’t that good at handling our foods.
Meerkats too can be aggressive especially with territorial disputes. The two gangs line up facing each other and they point their tails straight up and puff out their fur, jumping around and trying to intimidate the other group. If this fails and no one backs down it ends up in a fight but 9 out of 10 times one group will back down.
Reproduction with mongooses is not seasonal and can occur at any time of the year. Gestation is between and 45 and 100 days and the number of pups in a litter are between one and four. The pups will mature in between 9 months and two years depending on the species and can expect to live for between 6 and 10 years.
It leaves one wondering if these little fellows might not be a solution to Guam’s infamous brown snake problem?