Australia’s out-of-control mouse plague could last for up to two years if urgent action is not taken to kill millions of the rodents, a farmer’s association has warned.
Xavier Martin, the vice president of NSW Farmers, said growers are now abandoning paddocks to the mouse hoard, fearing that crops sown there over the winter will be devoured before they can be harvested.
‘Without a concerted baiting effort in the next few weeks, this could easily turn into a two-year plague event,’ Mr Martin warned as the government revealed it is ready to hand out one of the world’s deadliest poisons for free, as soon as states approve it.
The chemical – bromadiolone, an anti-coagulant which causes animals to bleed to death – is controversial because of effects it could have on the wider environment.
And Mr Martin has warned that it could come too late to stop he onslaught of mice which one expert warned could soon spread from the countryside into cities.
Pictured: A pile of dead mice on a New South Wales farm. Farmers are abandoning some paddocks and can’t defer sowing winter crops any longer, industry chiefs have said
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, pest hunter Dieter Mafra warned that mice are likely hitching rides from the country into cities such as Sydney on food trucks and other vehicles.
As winter approaches, the mice will likely seek shelter in people’s homes meaning that scenes reported in the countryside – such as mice biting people in bed – could soon be seen in urban centres.
‘They will travel to Sydney, I would say by August,’ Mr Mafra said.
Australia suffers from periodic mouse plagues that typically affect grain-producing farm regions and tend to go in 10-year cycles.
2020 was a particularly good growing year after heavy rains ended two years of drought and created fertile growing conditions.
At the end of the season, it meant farmers had large amounts of food to store, which they put away in silos and sheds – which quickly became breeding grounds for mice.
What started in New South Wales has since spread to Queensland and South Australia, and shows no sign of slowing down.
A map created by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation shows how sightings have been increasing and spreading in recent months as mice move from rural hinterland closer to the coast.
The mice have already caused millions of dollars-worth of damage to homes and livelihoods, with the NSW government announcing a $50million assistance package to help out those whose businesses are affected.
But Mr Martin warned that money – along with the deadly poison – could end up being too little too late.
Mice are pictured falling into a large tub of water and drown as part of a makeshift trap on a NSW farm. Farmers are concerned about the effect of poison on farm dogs, piggeries and other animals
The government has secured 5000 litres of the super-deadly rodent poison bromadiolone – offering to provide it for free once federal authorities approve its use
The extent of Australia’s revolting mouse plague is shown in this alarming new map by the CSIRO (pictured)
‘The state government’s assistance package is impractical, dysfunctional and weeks away, which is not helping farmers who need support right now to drive mouse numbers down and break this horrible unrelenting cycle,’ he said on Wednesday.
‘After more than eight months of battling growing mouse numbers farmers are still waiting for state government assistance to hit the ground and offer some practical support to our farming community,’ Mr Martin said.
The NSW government said on Thursday it had secured 5000 litres of the super-deadly rodent poison bromadiolone – enough to treat about 95 tonnes of grain – offering to provide it for free once federal authorities approve its use.
But farmers are concerned about the poison’s possible effect on farm dogs, piggeries and other animals.
NSW Farmers say the simplest, safest and most timely way for the government to help farmers is to provide rebates of up to $25,000 per farm business to cover 50 per cent of the cost of zinc phosphide bait.
While NSW Farmers initially welcomed the state government’s assistance package, Mr Martin says it’s now apparent that the provision of ‘free baits for farmers’ are still dependent on federal approval which could be weeks away.
‘Each day we delay in taking effective action to control these mice will increase economic losses and the likelihood we will still be battling mice come Christmas time,’ Mr Martin said.