Bogan Gate (Australia) (TIP) : At night, the floors of sheds vanish beneath carpets of scampering mice. Ceilings come alive with the sounds of scratching. One family blamed mice chewing electrical wires for their house burning down. 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.
“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.
Bruce Barnes said he is taking a gamble by planting crops on his family farm near the central New South Wales town of Bogan Gate.
“We just sow and hope,” he said. 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.
NSW Farmers, the state’s top agricultural association, predicts the plague will wipe more than 1 billion Australian dollars (USD 775 million) from the value of the winter crop. The state government has ordered 5,000 liters (1,320 gallons) of the banned poison Bromadiolone from India.
The federal government regulator has yet to approve emergency applications to use the poison on the perimeters of crops. Critics fear the poison will kill not only mice but also animals that feed on them. including wedge-tail eagles and family pets. “We’re having to go down this path because we need something that is super strength, the equivalent of napalm to just blast these mice into oblivion,” Marshall said. 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. The same government-commissioned advisers who have helped farmers cope with the drought, fire and floods are returning to help people deal with the stresses of mice.
The worst comes after dark, when millions of mice that had been hiding and dormant during the day become active. By day, the crisis is less apparent. Patches of road are dotted with squashed mice from the previous night, but birds soon take the carcasses away. Haystacks are disintegrating due to ravenous rodents that have burrowed deep inside. Upending a sheet of scrap metal lying in a paddock will send a dozen mice scurrying. AP