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What's that smell? Could a civet be nearby?

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The masked palm civet or gem-faced civet (Paguma larvata), known in Japanese as "hakubishin," first gained notice in Japan in the 1940s. They are widely distributed, proliferating mostly in the central to southern parts of Tohoku, Shizuoka Prefecture and in Shikoku.

Tokyo Shimbun (Oct 2) reports that while "hakubishin" were rarely seen in the Tokyo metropolis before the 2000, they are now becoming common. In 2014, no fewer than 715 were trapped. City authorities frequently receive calls complaining that "One ate the fruit in my garden" or "One invaded my house and made a mess."

"At first I thought the problem might be rats, or a cat, so I was really surprised to find one in the city," Shigemi Ichikawa, a 72-year-old resident of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, told the newspaper. A commercial exterminator caught two civets in the inner garden of Ichikawa's condominium. The operator of a beauty salon on the first floor of the same building heard noises emanating from the ceiling, and they later entered the salon and ransacked the premises.

The article is accompanied by a photo of two of the nocturnal creatures scampering over power lines in a residential part of Shibuya Ward.

According to a representative of the Japan Pest Control Association, customer requests to remove the civets have increased year-on-year, with 1,303 in 2015. About half of the requests were from people in Tokyo.

"We aren't sure why, but more of them are spreading from their usual habitats in mountainous areas and coming to cities. This may be due to empty residences providing them with more places to hide," a spokesperson for the association said.

According to the Tokyo Environment Bureau, the number of civets spotted in the prefecture began increasing about a decade ago, and 2014 set a new record with 715 trapped. The number caught in the 23 central wards, 201, were nearly double that of the rural Tama district.

Takumi Miyamoto, who collects animal-related data, estimates that Tokyo's 23 central wards are home to between 1,100 to 1,800 civets.

"Tokyo has lots of wood-frame houses that offer crevices, and surprisingly plenty of gardens with fruit-bearing trees," Miyamoto says. "With a place to propagate and food source, they probably find it quite hospitable."

Historical records from the Edo era (1600-1868) describe a creature called "Raiju," which appears similar to the "hakubishin," so it's difficult to ascertain whether the animal is an invasive species or native to the Japanese archipelago. Reports of damage from Kansai tend to be fewer, as badgers predominate there.

The civets are said to particularly like persimmons and "biwa" (loquats). To protect themselves from predators, they spray a foul odor similar to that of skunks. They have also been known to bite humans.

A primary concern is that they may carry disease. In addition to carrying fleas and ticks, the handling or consumption of civets' meat at animal markets in southern China is suspected of having caused the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003. Currently, Shibuya and 12 other Tokyo wards have made arrangements with pest control specialists to eradicate them. Last year, Bunkyo Ward held an orientation to advise residents on how to prevent infestations.

Should you encounter one, the article says do not offer food. Block vents located close to greenery or under buildings to prevent their entry. (They can access crevices as small as five centimeters in diameter.) It is also a good idea to prune tree branches to keep civets from climbing them to gain access to a house. Fruits should be harvested early or netting used to cover the trees. Also, don't set out dishes of dog or cat food where they can find it and don't leave out rubbish.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Reports of damage from Kansai tend to be fewer, as badgers predominate there.

And just how is that connected? Badgers are totally different animals with totally different niches. They will not be climbing trees taking fruit. They will be digging in the ground. They'd be unlikely to even catch a civet.

Anyway, it's rather dispiriting to see the classic solution to unwanted lifeforms disrupting orderliness in sterile cities; extermination. Japan seems to hate life or regards it as a nuisance.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Our neighbors have fruit trees and I've seen these beasts, once on the power lines, and it was huge. Why dont the neighbors harvest their fruit?!?. I bet they buy their fruit in supermarkets, too. Crazy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There is a civet that regularly visits our allotment. I used to find little paw prints on freshly-prepared beds, and thought some fool had been letting their dog run around the allotment; but then low-hanging cucumbers would be found scattered around with their juicy middles removed, indicating the aftermath of a midnight feast. Aubergines and peppers were nibbled, but then left alone - obviously not to the civet's taste.

Haven't seen any signs of his work in recent weeks. I hope he hasn't been exterminated.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Moonraker,

Civets & badgers eat a LOT of the same stuff & badgers would also eat a civet if given the chance & badgers being larger its not surprising civets would not want to encounter badgers in the evening when they are out & about

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Catch them and feed then coffee cherries, because kopi luwak is very valuable

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Somebody probably thought they would make great pets, then let them go when they became a hassle, which is often the case here. I think it was in a book where it was said that if you picked up Tokyo and shook it upside down that more animals would fall out than in most zoos in the world, and with some of the stories you read it wouldn't surprise me if it were true.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Somebody probably thought they would make great pets, then let them go when they became a hassle

It apparently isn't clear whether they are home-grown or exotic. Those who claim they are exotic point to the fact that they are not found in great numbers in Hokkaido and Kyushu, where they could have been expected to cross over from the mainland, and to records that animals were brought in from China as a source of fur (ugh) in the period before and after the war. The theory that they are home-grown comes from the fact that they are mentioned in literature dating from the Edo Period and from the observation that the Japanese variety seems to be morphologically distinct from furrin civets.

http://www.maff.go.jp/j/seisan/tyozyu/higai/h_manual/h20_03b/pdf/data2.pdf

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Block vents located close to greenery or under buildings to prevent their entry.

Excellent advice. The result of doing so could be rot in wood leading to structural damage to the house, which is far worse than anything hakubishi can do. The vents are there for a reason.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The result of doing so could be rot in wood leading to structural damage to the house, which is far worse than anything hakubishi can do. The vents are there for a reason.

Use mesh, so's they're blocked to the critters, not blocked to airflow?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Civets have crossed my path quite a few times here in the heart of Tokyo. They don't seem to be scared of me ... and if they are close enough I talk to them ... in English of course. So far, they are cute ... and harmless.

The above story brought something to my attention, however. They can produce a liquid similar to a skunk! And from my experience with skunks back home in America ... they really can stink. Like ... wow!! Don't want that to happen. So guess I will continue to be "friends" with these unusually looking creatures.

Have seen them walking on electrical wiring high above the street and just recently saw one "walk up" a wall easier than a cat can. Civets ... quite an animal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan seems to hate life or regards it as a nuisance.

While Japanese may regard many animals as a nuisance, wildlife actually abounds in Japan. As far as I know, Japan is the only country in Asia (other than India) where the locals don't eat everything that moves (apart from seafoods of course). Consequently, birds, mammals and reptiles that would be hunted to exhaustion (or extinction) in other asian countries, thrive in Japan. I live on the Boso Hanto and my property is alive with wild boars, various varieties of snakes (including Vipers which are almost extinct in Europe), Tanuki (raccoon dogs), North American Raccoons, Weasels and Pine Martins (try keeping chickens!), and Hakubishin. There are six species of raptors (birds of prey) that I see regularly (including Peregrine Falcons). For a lover of wildlife the Japanese countryside is amazingly diverse and abundant.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Got a great photo of a civet on a power line near my house. It couldn't go forward or back due to the dozen crows flying and hopping about screeching at it. They eventually gave up. Resourceful creatures these urban civets. Is it a coincidence that I've seen fewer rats around while they've been present?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reminds me of the end of the Ghibli movie PomPoko (spoiler alert) where tanukuis have lost the battle against urban sprawl. They subsist by sneaking around the buildings and gutters, many get hit by cars, but somehow they make it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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