The biggest plague of mice in decades continues to sweep across southeast Australian states in biblical proportions. And now that no more food is left, they start cannibalizing…
According to reporting system Mouse Alert, areas around the southeast coast are seeing high mouse abundance, with Victoria, New South Wales and Brisbane hit the hardest. Mice numbers have been high for months, but the problem is getting worse as the country heads into winter, and the mice are seeking shelter indoors.
“People are putting the legs of their beds in buckets or pots of water, but the mice are still climbing curtains, jumping onto their beds and biting them,” said the vice president of the New South Wales Farmers’ Association Xavier Martin.
“When they run out of food, when they run out of seeds to eat they start cannibalising, they start eating each other,” added Martin. “They’re pretty disgusting animals and of course they’ve taken over a lot of our homes, our sheds, our vehicles, our tractors, we’ve had machinery burn.”
Bumper crops have left farms with a lot of grain for the mice to feast on, and with an abundance of food available they have bred at higher than usual levels. Mice can breed from around the age of six weeks, and give birth to litters of up to 10 pups every 19 to 21 days.
A mild and moist summer gave mice ideal conditions for the mice to breed, which continued through the fall. There is no break in pup production.
The infestations have got so bad that the deputy prime minister declared this week that “the only good mouse is a dead mouse,” while the New South Wales government purchased 5,000 liters of mice poison.
Mice seek shelter as winter arrives
With the animals seeking out shelter as winter approaches, CSIRO have advised people in urban areas to be on the look out for mice, too.
“People in urban areas should patch up holes in their home, cracks in the walls, roof spaces and where pipes come through the wall. Pack holes with steel wool or space invader. Mice can squeeze into very small spaces, but they won’t eat through steel wool. Put seals on doors,” they wrote, adding pet owners should clean up left-over food that might attract them.
Poison and cannibalism
For now, though the mice are threatening to invade Sydney, the problem is mainly limited to farms and rural areas. To tackle the problem, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority granted an emergency permit that allows grain baits to be covered in double-strength zinc phosphide to try and reduce numbers, as numbers have not been reducing as quickly as some had hoped.
“As they run out of food and cannibalise each other they do decline but in other places they are just absolutely exploding and its not thousands its billions,” said Martin.
“In my family farm we put out two billion baits mainly by aircraft, and we are only moderate sized farmers and they are all gone, the baits have all been all taken.”
Can you imagine the smell?
“The smell is rotten. The live smell of mice is terrible, but the dead smell’s ten times worse and so I’ve been baiting… which I don’t really like baiting because of the effects on the wildlife and that. I do live in a really nice area with lots of wildlife and that.
“But my morning ritual is to go out and I get a couple of hundred mice every night, I catch in buckets. The water bucket traps. I’ve got about 15 bait stations and I spend at least an hour every morning and every night picking up dead mice to reduce that risk of the wildlife getting hurt.“ [Yahoo, IFLScience]
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