Mouse plagues are wreaking havoc in regional parts of Australia as fears grow the rodent swarms could disrupt the livelihoods of the nation's farme
Mouse plagues are wreaking havoc in regional parts of Australia as fears grow the rodent swarms could disrupt the livelihoods of the nation’s farmers.
A video taken by farmer Harry Gaynor showed hundreds of mice crossing the road in the headlights of a car near the village of Collie in Western Australia.
Social media has been flooded with the shocking imagery of thousands of mice either running wild or lying dead on the ground.
Wet weather and bumper crops have meant mice numbers are much higher than usual especially across cropping regions of central NSW and southern Queensland.
‘If we walk into our machinery shed at night-time and you turn a torch light on, the floor is crawling,’ Vicki Green told the ABC
A car headlights capture mice all over the road near Cowie, in central NSW
Mouse plagues occur every few years in country areas, with some of the worst in memory coming in 1984 and 1993, when nearly $100 million damage was done to crops, buildings and even poultry farms.
That could happen again if the mice continue to breed unchecked.
Mice last reached plague levels in 2011 and they have done again, due to a combination of early rains, mild conditions and big crops ‘falling over’ in field before they can be harvested.
Steve Henry, of the CSIRO, told Daily Mail Australia current mice plagues hadn’t reached the levels seen in disturbing footage of infamous mice plagues in north-west NSW in 1984, but he said it could still happen.
‘In some locations you’d call it a plague and other locations it’s just higher than normal but it’s definitely cause for serious concern because the mice are still breeding.
‘There’s potential for them to cause serious harm when farmers sow the winter crop.’
A single breeding pair of mice can produce 600 offspring in a season, Henry said.
The Australian government has even created a mouse alert website and app to help farmers monitor the damaging spread of mice
CSIRO Research Officer Steve Henry said in cropping regions of NSW and Queensland mice are ‘all pervasive right now… they’re in your linen, in your pantry – they’re everywhere every time you turn around’
The impacts of mouse plagues are economic and social: farmers lose tons and tons of crops- sometimes the entire crop – and they have to pay thousands of dollars to control the outbreaks.
To cull mice, farmers are only allowed to use zinc phosphide – unlike in controversial footage of farmers controlling 1984 mouse plagues, where one desperate farmer used a flame thrower.
‘That is one of the most appalling things I’ve ever seen, I was disgusted by it and I’m surprised no action was taken,’ Henry said of the video.
A horrific video of a mouse plague in NSW in 1984 has resurfaced raising fears that the current mouse plagues could get that bad again
Then there’s the social impacts on rural communities, Mr Henry said.
‘Mice are all pervasive.’
‘They run across your bed, they’re in your linen, in your pantry – they’re everywhere every time you turn around. People in the city complain when they see one mouse, but in the country people are trapping 20 or 30 a night in their homes at the moment.’
In some rural areas this season, a ‘carpet’ of mice has been observed
James Constable, who mows lawns at the Merriwa racecourse, told the ABC: ‘I don’t think I have seen them this bad.’
‘It was a carpet of mice because they were running everywhere trying to get away from the mower.
Emma Henderson, also of Merriwa said mice had infested her appliances.
In the 1984 video, a desperate farmer uses a flame thrower to kill mice, which ‘disgusted and appalled’ CSIRO’s Steve Henry
‘They made a nest around the oven and to make it more comfy they pulled all the insulation from around the elements of the oven, which was causing my oven to overheat and trip power,’ she said.
In central and southern Queensland the mice plagues have been happening since mid 2020 and cost thousands of dollars in property and crop destruction.
Dalby grain grower Angus Dalgleish told the ABC the numbers had grown so much he could see mice scurrying among his crops in the daylight.
Mr Dalgleish said the mice were destroying cotton, sorghum, corn crops, damaging farming machinery and getting into homes.
Mice were causing havoc on the Darling Downs, around Toowomba.
Vicki Green, a farmer from Felton, was setting dozens of mouse traps in her home, and around her property. ‘If we walk into our machinery shed at night-time and you turn a torch light on, the floor is crawling,’ Ms Green said.