What do Egyptian mongooses eat in Castilla-La Mancha?

    The analysis of Egyptian mongoose scats and stomach contents from Castilla-La Mancha confirms the feeding flexibility of this mesocarnivore, which adapts its diet to the spatial and temporal availability of its potential foods.

    The knowledge of wildlife feeding habits is of great relevance for the management and conservation of biodiversity, among other issues, due to its implications at the ecosystem level, for animal health and for the prevention of conflicts between wildlife and human beings.

    We find a clear example of this among the carnivore species such as the Egyptian mongoose (Ichneumon herpes), a generalist and opportunistic predator whose European distribution is restricted to the Iberian Peninsula. The previous studies on its diet point at the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) as the main prey, although with geographic and seasonal variations related to the availability of this prey and other foods. However, all the previous studies on the Egyptian mongoose’s diet in the Iberian Peninsula have been performed in Portugal and Doñana National Park, being unknown so far its feeding habits in other areas such as Castilla-La Mancha.

    As part of the MELOCAM project, researchers from the Research Group in Game Resources and Wildlife Management of Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC – CSIC, UCLM, JCCM), in collaboration with scientists from the Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados (IESA-CSIC) and the Universidad de Extremadura, have studied for the first time the diet of this mesocarnivore in Castilla-La Mancha, which represents nowadays the distribution edge of the species.

    The study was based on the analysis of scats and stomach contents collected between 2018 and 2022 throughout Castilla-La Mancha, more intensively in three study areas of the Ciudad Real and Toledo provinces with marked differences in the availability of different foods. With the information obtained from the analyses, the relative frequency of occurrence (%RFO) and the percentage of consumed biomass (%CB) were estimated for 12 food groups. The seasonal and spatial variations were also estimated in the three localities intensively studied, where rabbit abundances were also estimated to assess its effect on the mongoose diet.

    Diet of the mongoose in Castilla-La Mancha


    Geographic location of the scats and stomachs analyzed in this study over the current distribution area of the species (blue squares) in the provinces of Castilla-La Mancha. The bold squares close to the numbers indicate the intensive sampled localities (Mongoose photo: Javier Gómez Chicano).

    Overall results show that European rabbits represent the highest %CB (30.7%) in the diet of the Egyptian mongoose in Castilla-La Mancha, followed by reptiles (19.9%) and small mammals (19.9%). According to the relative frequency of occurrence, insects were the most frequent food (%RFO = 28.5%), followed by small mammals (15.5%), reptiles (15.5%) and rabbits (14.7%). In the intensively studied areas, the %CB of rabbits was the highest in the area with the highest abundance of this prey, whereas reptiles had the highest %CB in the area with the lowest availability of the lagomorph.

    Diet diversity (Shannon index) varied between 1.73 and 2.47 in those intensively studied areas and was inversely related to the availability of rabbits. There were important seasonal variations in the mongoose diet, related to the variations in availability of different foods. For instance, in autumn the consumption of reptiles was highest, in winter and spring the consumption of rabbits, small mammals and birds increased and in summer the intake of fruits, carrion and crustaceans was higher. These results confirm the dietary flexibility of this predator that adapts its diet to the relative availability of different foods in different temporal and spatial circumstances.

    The scientific publication of this research is available at:

    Descalzo, E., Díaz-Ruiz, F., Delibes-Mateos, M., Jiménez, J., Ferreras, P. 2023. Seasonal and spatial variations in the diet of the Egyptian mongoose in its north-eastern Iberian range edge. Mammalian Biology (2023)