It's an economic and social nightmare and there are no natural predators to stop them except huge amounts of poisoning which is killing many other animals.
Those in rural areas affected by the mouse plague are being forced to tie string around the their pants to stop the rodents running up their legs. Country towns in NSW have been gripped for the past nine months by a severe stomach-churning plague of mice, seeing schools, homes and hospitals overrun as farmers lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in crops. Entire towns have been suffocated by the pungent smell left by the rodents in Australia’s worst mice outbreak in more than 30 years.
“People are literally tying strings around their trousers if they’re walking through mice because they don’t want them running up their legs,” CSIRO mouse expert Steve Henry told VICE News. Farmers have resorted to burning entire silos of grain to escape the infestation. Others have blowtorched the creatures, or poisoned them with a government-sanctioned poison called zinc phosphide. Mr Henry, who is leading the charge in mouse control efforts and helping farmers cope, says the zinc phosphide is the only humane and effective option.
“It is a nasty chemical and it’s banned for use in other countries, but the chances of secondary poisoning are quite low,” he said. NSW farmer Mick Harris recently compared the mouse plague to “trying to control Covid on a cruise ship”. “If some cabins are contaminated, it’s going to keep spreading from one to the other,” he told The Times. “It’s the same with paddocks – if you only do one paddock here and there, they’ll just spread again.”
The 35-year-old farming consultant lives on a 2500-acre property deluged by mice with his wife and their newborn baby. He recalled one night feeling something scuttling across his face while he slept, discovering a mouse later in a trap under his bed, describing his find as making his “skin crawl”. With winter setting in, home and car owners have been forced to deal with rats and mice looking for warmer places to live.
They’ve eaten through electrical wires, which sparked a house fire in Narrabri, NSW, while cars have been damaged. “At this time of year, with the heating systems on, the smell of hot mouse urine and faeces is pretty repulsive,” one senior official from the NSW Farmer’s Association said. Many have resorted to putting the legs of their beds and tables into buckets of water to stop mice crawling up. The infestation may not yet have peaked — with CSIRO warning it could last two years. And, it’s not just NSW communities that are being hit. The MouseAlert app, which tracks spottings, show the rodent pests are as far north as Biloela in Queensland, in various locations around Melbourne and Geelong, and in isolated spots in South Australia and Western Australia.