The Barbados Mongoose
It goes without saying that you’ll surely see a Barbados mongoose scurry across your path sometime during your stay on the island. In fact, it’s an old Bajan tradition that it’s good luck to have a mongoose run across the road in front of you, so keep your eyes peeled!
The mongoose is a slender, furry creature with a brown/grey coat. It has a long body, short legs and a bushy tail, and is comparable to a Weasel or a Stoat.
They are terrestrial (land) mammals that can be found mainly in the grasslands and woodland areas all over the island.
The mongoose eats all manner of creatures. In fact, it has been coined a ‘non-discriminatory predator‘ and eats anything from lizards, insects, birds, snakes, frogs, and chickens (and their eggs).
Mongooses (not ‘mongeese’) are very quick moving animals and are often wary of human beings.
There’s even a local saying ‘as sly as a mongoose‘ – meaning, a sneaky and swift manoeuvring person.
Did You Know?
The mongoose was first introduced to Barbados from India in the 1870s as part of a plan to combat the increasing rat population. The rats were posing a large threat to the sugar cane industry which, at the time, was Barbados’ economic lifeline. However, this plan hit an unfortunate snag and backfired as the rat is a nocturnal animal and the mongoose tends to scurry along by day.
Nevertheless, although it was originally introduced to cull the rat population (unsuccessfully), it is believed that the mongoose is the reason why the local grass snake and any other snakes once prevalent on the island are no longer.
This unpredicted outcome has seen the eradication of snakes island-wide and an increase in the mongoose (and potentially the rat) population of Barbados.
Where Can I See A Mongoose?
It’s very likely that you will stumble across a mongoose during your stay in Barbados, but not necessarily in the usual south or west coast tourist jaunts.
However, just take a drive through the island’s countryside, particularly through St. Lucy or St. Philip, and you are bound to see at least one scamper across the road in front of your car.
Fun fact: Ask any local and they’ll tell you of the old Bajan belief that a mongoose never crosses the road unless someone is watching.
If you do happen to see a mongoose while in Barbados, do not try to approach it or to pet it. If a mongoose is ever caught or feels imminent danger, he will make a horrifying screeching noise and can be quite vicious if threatened.
Because they are not nocturnal creatures, you will rarely see a mongoose at night. However, you can be sure that in the bushier areas of the island, you will hear them ferretting through the long grass at lightning speed and you may even catch a glimpse of their glowing eyes in the darkness.
It is also worth noting that mongooses are forbidden in Canada and the US, among other countries, because of their supposed aggressive and destructive nature, as well as the fact that they are prone to carrying all kinds of infectious diseases.
Author: Brett Callaghan