Typical mongoose detection tools that include trail cameras, live traps, and tracking tunnels were supplemented this week with help from an animal who's ability to detect scents is anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive than a human's, depending on the breed.
Zero, a smooth fox terrier, assisted the Kauai Invasive Species Committee 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, the Kauai Invasive Species Committee, 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. They can also be carriers of diseases such as leptospirosis and rabies.
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."
The objective is to have the dog corner the animal so that it can be captured.