Australia Tormented by Plague of Ravenous Mice

Numbers are 'absolutely unprecedented'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 28, 2021 10:33 AM CDT
Australia Tormented by Plague of Ravenous Mice
A mouse pokes his nose out while hiding in stored grain on a farm near Tottenham, Australia on May 19, 2021.   (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Vast tracts of land in Australia's New South Wales state are being threatened by a mouse plague that the state government describes as “absolutely unprecedented." Just how many millions of rodents have infested the agricultural plains across the state is guesswork, the AP reports. At night, the floors of sheds vanish beneath carpets of scampering mice. Ceilings come alive with the sounds of scratching. One farmer estimates he drowned 7,500 mice in a single night last week with a trap he set with a cattle feeding bowl full of water. "We’re at a critical point now where if we don’t significantly reduce the number of mice that are in plague proportions by spring, we are facing an absolute economic and social crisis in rural and regional New South Wales,” Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said this month.

The risk is that the mice will maintain their numbers through the Southern Hemisphere winter and devour the wheat, barley, and canola before it can be harvested. The plague is a cruel blow to farmers in Australia’s most populous state who have been battered by fires, floods, and pandemic disruptions in recent years, only to face the new scourge of the introduced house mouse, or Mus musculus. Plagues seemingly appear from nowhere and often vanish just as fast. Disease and a shortage of food are thought to trigger a dramatic population crash as mice feed on themselves, devouring the sick, weak, and their own offspring.

(More Australia stories.)

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