A mongoose is a long, furry animal with a pointy face and bushy tail. They are not rodents, despite popular belief. They belong to the Herpestidae family, which includes meerkats and civets. The Indian gray mongoose can survive a cobra attack, which few animals can, making it one of this deadly snake’s predators. Mongooses are often kept as pets in order to rid houses of rats and other pests.
Indian gray mongooses live in Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh, preferring areas of thickets, broken, bushy vegetation and cultivated fields, as well as open areas, scrub and grasslands.
Indian gray mongooses are generally solitary and diurnal, and are especially active during the early mornings and early evenings, searching for reptiles. They move with a quick trot, constantly scanning an area for food. Despite being good climbers, they are rarely seen climbing trees. They sleep in holes during the day, in hollow trees or in the ground, to avoid the midday sun. They are known for their skill in fighting snakes, using special techniques and adaptations. They engage the snake for about an hour in battle, and then the snake tires of striking, whereupon the mongoose leaps at it and attempts its first bite. The cobra usually then loses, as it cannot strike and retract quickly enough to inject venom. These mongooses use scent marking for communication, males spraying only during the breeding season. The spray is potent and can cover a huge distance, like that of skunks.
The Indian gray mongooses are omnivores. They are opportunistic hunters, feeding mainly on rats, mice, lizards, snakes, and beetles. They also eat ground birds and their eggs, as well as fruits, berries, and roots.
Although Indian gray mongooses are widespread, not much is known about their mating habits in the wild. They are solitary except in the mating season, which is March, August and October, and, after mating, the pair separates, the male often mating with other females. This suggests their mating system is polygynous. Births take place in May or June and from October to December, with one female able to produce two or three litters a year. Typically two to four pups are born, after a gestation of about 60 days. Helpless and blind when born, the young develop quickly, and remain with their mother for as long as six months. These animals typically gain maturity when they are 6 to 9 months old.
This species is not thought to be under any major threats, but there may be some localized threats. In some areas it is captured and sold for its skin or as a pet, and all species of mongoose are captured for the wildlife trade. Some tribes eat its meat, and use the hair to make good luck charms and brushes.
Indian gray mongoose is mostly common, often abundant throughout its range, but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today remain stable.
In their natural environment, due to their diet, Indian gray mongooses are likely to affect populations of the animals they consume. Their ability to kill snakes has been well documented, and they have been introduced in many places for that purpose.