White-tailed mongooses are found in most areas of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the especially arid regions. They also range into areas of southern Arabia and have been found on Farasan Kabir Island, located in the Red Sea. Within their known geographic range they are fairly common. (Estes, 1991)
White-tailed mongooses are found in a variety of terrestrial habitats within their known range including savannahs, woodlands and grasslands, but they are most commonly found in woodland areas with substantial coverage. They are not found in habitats with high moisture, such as rainforests or swampy areas. White-tailed mongooses are also present in agricultural areas and often occupy dens made from old termite mounds. They are found at elevations less than 2,500 m. (Admasu, et al., 2004; Estes, 1991)
White-tailed mongooses are a rather large species of mongoose, with both sexes reaching an average of 103 cm in length, from their head to the tip of their tail. Their weight averages 3.6 kg for males and 3.4 kg for females. They have gray or gray-brown under fur, normally about 15 mm long, which is thickest along their tail and hindquarters. Projecting out from their under fur are long black and white banded guard hairs. The terminal end of their tail is normally pure white, with the exception of individuals found in west Africa, whose terminal tail ends are sometimes black. White-tailed mongooses have 5 toes on each foot, with stout curling claws; the area extending from their palm to their wrist is hairless. Their molars are broad and flattened. Both sexes have 2 pairs of mammae located on their abdomen. (Estes, 1991; Taylor, 1972)
There is not an extensive amount of information available on the reproduction of white-tailed mongooses, but some aspects are known. Copulation is thought to occur over about a half hour, with multiple mounts occurring, each mount is ended by the female breaking away. (Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
The time at which breeding occurs is still under debate, but it is thought to occur shortly after the dry season, which runs from August to November. The appearance of litters occurs most often in the wet season, from February to May, but there is documentation of litters occurring in the dry season. The female normally gives birth to 1 to 3 young. There is currently insufficient information on the gestation period, birth mass and the age at which white-tailed mongooses reach sexual maturity. (Estes, 1991; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
Parental care is provided by the female and young are weaned at around 9 months of age. Just before 9 months, the weaned offspring begin foraging by themselves for several hours each night. By 9 months old the young are completely independent, but are known to continue foraging on maternal ranges for up to 4 months. Where food is plentiful, some females may remain and start an overlapping home range of their own. (Estes, 1991; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
There is no information on the average lifespan of white-tailed mongooses. One individual who resided in the Zoological Gardens of London had a recorded lifespan of 10 years and 29 days. (Taylor, 1972)
White-tailed mongooses are normally solitary, with the exception of a mother and her young. They are primarily nocturnal and are more active on cloudy overcast nights than on clear nights. White-tailed mongooses are sedentary and do not migrate to new locations except to leave parental territories to establish their own. White-tailed mongooses live in dens made from inactive termite mounds and depressions at the base of trees; they do not dig their own dens. They are ground dwellers and unlike many other mongooses, such as slender mongooses, they do not sit on their hind legs. They have a trotting gait, similar to a dog and walk digitigrade on their toes. They keep their head low, with their shoulders lower than the base of their tail, which normally trails on the ground. When threatened they have a running gallop. Both males and females perform a characteristic tail arch and lift when they urinate. The function of this arch is not known but it is thought to serve as an alert to other mongooses of their presence through scent marking. (Estes, 1991; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005; Taylor, 1972)
White-tailed mongooses may have a home range size of up to 8 sq km. The average home range size for a male is 0.97 sq km, while the average for a female is 0.64 sq km. Males do not have overlapping ranges but they may completely overlap with female ranges, likewise, several females may inhabit the same range. (Nowak, 2005)
White-tailed mongooses use forms of olfactory and vocal communication. Both sexes scent mark using anal glands, urine and dung. While urinating, these animals perform a characteristic tail arch. The purpose of this behavior is not known, however, solitary mongooses perform this action less frequently than those traveling together. They use a wide array of sounds to communicate with conspecifics and deter predators including whimpering, growling, shrieking and barking. (Estes, 1991)
The diet of white-tailed mongooses consists primarily of insects, including beetles and mole crickets. They also eat rats, mice, shrews, small birds and lizards as well as berries and fruit when they are in season. During the rainy seasons, they eat a large amount of dung beetles and dung beetle larvae, while feeding mainly on termites during the dry season. When found in civilization, these mongooses are common raiders of garbage cans. They have also been seen eating eggs; they throw eggs between their back legs, against hard objects to acquire its contents. (Estes, 1991; Nowak, 2005; Taylor, 1972)
Humans are the main predator of white-tailed mongooses. They are hunted in several areas of Africa using guns, traps and dogs, after which they are either eaten or sold in markets. Young may also be at risk of predation by large birds of prey and large snakes. White-tailed mongooses ward off predators by releasing a noxious scent from their anal glands, making it unappealing to possible hunters. (Carpaneto, et al., 2007; Nowak, 2005)
White-tailed mongooses play the role of both predator and prey in their ecosystem. They prey on insects, eggs and small vertebrates. Their main predators are humans but they may also be prey upon by large birds or snakes. They are also to host ticks. (Punyua and Newson, 1985; Taylor, 1972)
White-tailed mongooses hold economic importance for humans in the form of food and income. They are sold in markets for food and fur. In rural markets they can be sold for 1,500 to 2,500 CFA, the equivalent of 3 to 4 US dollars, in urban markets they can be sold for 4,000 to 6,000 CFA, the equivalent of 8 to 12 US dollars. Although they are trapped in some areas, white-tailed mongooses may make good household pets if they are raised from a young age. Since their main food source is insects, they may help control insect populations in areas inhabited by humans. (Carpaneto, et al., 2007; Nowak, 2005)
White-tailed mongooses have no significant negative impact on humans. They are, however, considered pests when living in close proximity. When they find themselves close to civilization they may steal chickens and tip over garbage cans to find food. (Nowak, 2005)
White-tailed mongooses are common within their geographic range. They are widely adaptable even where human civilization dominates and their natural environment has been modified. (Hoffmann, 2012)
Malorey Matson (author), Northern Michigan University, John Bruggink (editor), Northern Michigan University, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
flesh of dead animals.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
having more than one female as a mate at one time
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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Carpaneto, G., A. Fusari, H. Okongo. 2007. Subsistence hunting and exploitation of mammals in the Haut-Ogoouse province, south-eastern Gabon. Journal of Anthropological Sciences, 85: 183-193.
Djagoun, S., P. Gaubert. 2009. Small carnivores from southern Benin: a preliminary assessment of diversity and hunting pressure. Small Carnivore Conservation, 40: 1-10.
Durant, S., M. Craft, C. Foley, K. Hampson, A. Lobora, M. Msuha, E. Eblate, J. Bukombe, J. Mchetto, N. Pettorelli. 2010. Does size matter? An investigation of habitat use across a carnivore assemblage in the Serengeti, Tanzania. Journal of Animal Ecology, 79: 1012-1022.
Estes, R. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates. Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.
Hoffmann, M. 2012. "http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41620/0." (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed February 13, 2013 at
Nowak, R. 2005. Walker's Carnivores of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Punyua, D., R. Newson. 1985. The brown ear tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus Neumann (Acarina: Ixodidae) and associated tick species on wild and domestic hosts at Muguga, Kenya. The Journal of Parasitology, 71: 248-252.
Skinner, J., C. Chimimba. 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
Taylor, M. 1972. Mammalian Species, 12: 1-4..