This elegantly slender, auburn-hued mongoose with a distinctive black tip to its long tail is most often seen dashing for cover, although sometimes it does stop to look back over its shoulder before disappearing into dense vegetation. Seeing this mongoose just beyond the bottom of our garden was a special experience.

Previously, I have only glimpsed through a window a mongoose passing through our garden, but on this occasion I was alerted to its presence by one of our dogs as she watched intently through the fence. Our garden backs on to unused land on the edge of a plantation, and I sat on the ground inside the fence and persuaded our two dogs to stay still and quiet beside me, which they did, even though they were rigid with anticipation.

Our long and quiet wait was rewarded by this mongoose breaking cover and enjoying the morning sunshine. It was aware of us watching it, but seemed to be fairly relaxed about it. After a while I noticed a second mongoose close by, although it did not emerge into the open.

These mongooses sleep in holes and I wondered if this was a breeding pair nesting in one of the small burrows in the scrubby woodland between our garden and the plantation. According to The Safari Companion, Slender Mongooses are solitary and territorial with both sexes seeing off same-sex intruders, and “fittest males hold estates that incorporate several females’ territories” (p.251).

The Slender Mongoose is also known as the Black-tipped Mongoose because of the characteristic black tip at the end of the tail, though the coat colour can vary across different regions. It occurs in most of Africa south of the Sahara in woodlands, forests or savannah.

Slender Mongoose with black-tipped tail and close-upIn the picture above, the black tip to the tail can be seen. Face-on the Slender Mongoose looks almost catlike, but it looks more like a weasel in profile.

This little carnivore chases or pounces on prey and can even catch grasshoppers in flight. Its teeth are adapted to meat eating and its highly varied diet includes rodents, lizards, snakes and birds, which it catches on the ground or in trees. Its claws are adapted for climbing rather than digging, and it is one of the more agile mongooses. It also eats insects and sometimes fruits and berries.

Slender Mongoose in profile in suburban garden

The presence of small mammals in and on the fringes of suburban areas raises the vexing question of fences. Fences are best if they have spaces that enable small animals to move through gardens. Unlike the diurnal Slender Mongoose, many small mammals in suburban areas are nocturnal, and we are mostly unaware of their presence. The useful Cape Town-based website Wildlife Neighbours also highlights the issue of enabling the movement of small animals through garden fences, see here.

Keeping pets in to keep them safe, and also so that they cannot chase or hunt wild animals is beneficial, but small spaces along garden fences, such as sections of dense hedging, can provide small wild animals with corridors to move through.

Posted by Carol at letting nature back in

Source: Richard D. Estes. 1993. The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals. Halfway House: Russel Friedman Books.