Mice and rats wreak havoc across parts of NSW, farmers fear for crops | Ralph-Lauren

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A “carpet” of mice has blanketed parts of New South Wales, with farmers and townspeople working tirelessly to keep the rodents at bay.

The mouse population has been on the rise in Merriwa in the Upper Hunter, extending to Tamworth and Moree in New England and into Queensland.

Mice start breeding at six weeks of age and can have a litter every 21 days after that, meaning a pair of mice can give rise to 500 offspring in a season.

The explosion in rodent numbers has led to a shortage of baits and mouse traps for people trying to deal with the infestation.

James Constable, a volunteer lawnmower at the Merriwa racecourse, said rodents lay low in the wet, but now that it was drier, they were everywhere.

Mice huddled in a corner
Mice are on the march in their thousands across cropping country in NSW and QLD.(Supplied: CSIRO)

“I have seen an old film where you see mice piling up on each other to try and get away from you, and that’s what it was like when I was at the racecourse.”

Another Merriwa local, Edward Berrier, said he had been catching 40 mice a night.

“I have caught around 600 in the last couple of months, and it got that bad after the first 200,that I decided to dig three pits so far and am about to dig a fourth. “

dead mice in abox
Edward Berrier from Merriwa said he had to dig mouse burial pits after his bins overflowed with carcasses.(Supplied: Edward Berrier)

Making a meal of appliances

Another Merriwa resident, Emma Henderson, said mice and rats had destroyed her appliances and whitegoods.

“They [mice] had made a nest around the oven and to make it more comfy they pulled all the insulation from around the elements of the oven, which was causing my oven to overheat and trip power,” she said.

Emma Henderson said mice had severed power cords, destroying appliances and whitegoods.
Emma Henderson said mice had severed power cords, destroying appliances and whitegoods.(Supplied: emma Henderson)

She said the freezer was next.

“The power was still tripping, and so I turned off all my power points trying to pinpoint what it was, and it was chest freezer, they had got into the wires and chewed all the wires and so there were wires shorting, which was tripping my power.”

She said her juicer and air fryer also had power cords severed and she was left with a damage bill of more than $1,000.

Bec Beeney said she had laid sticky traps at her back door to stop mice entering her home and in one night alone caught nearly 90 rodents.

Bec Beeney said she had caught scores of mice in sticky traps laid at her back door.
Bec Beeney said she had caught scores of mice in sticky traps laid at her back door.(Supplied: Bec Beeney)

A cleaner at a local pub, Karen Gumb, said mice had eaten anything not stored in plastic tubs.

“We have lost about 40 packets of chips and pork crackle that we had stored at the pub,” she said.

Farmers on alert

Farmers have been on alert across New South Wales, trying to stop mice from destroying their crops.

In the state’s Mid North Coast town of Bobin, cattle farmer Ross Elphick from Dingo Bend Angus said he had hundreds of mice running amok on his property.

“They eat any stored feed or grain in our sheds. It’s been like that for about two months.

“Our dogs are chasing them in the paddocks constantly.”

Merriwa farmer Chris Kemp said there was no room for complacency.

“We had to bait all our cropping country just before harvest. The mice were starting to eat the grain and eat the pods on the canola.

“The mice had been bad in houses and sheds, and we seem to get through a 20-litre bucket of rat bait every three weeks.

“They are just everywhere. When you mow your lawn, you get 50 or 100 mice running away from you.”

Local birds, meanwhile, were having a feast, he said.

While residents fight the plague, birds like Cedric,  are having a feast
While residents fight the plague, birds like Cedric, are having a feast(Supplied: Joseph Wright)

Steve Henry from the CSIRO has spent a decade gathering the scientific evidence needed to determine if another mouse plague was on the horizon.

Speaking from Parkes in the NSW far west, Mr Hendry said farmers there were nervous.

Mr Henry said some farmers said the

“I don’t think we have the actual evidence of that and it could go in either direction and so if numbers get really big from here on, there is a chance they could continue to breed into the autumn and cause a whole lot of trouble for the next crop.”

Steve Henry is a mice expert from the CSIRO.
CSIRO researcher Steve Henry said mice numbers were on the rise.(Supplied: Alice Kenney)

Rodent roadkill on the rise

Grain haulage truck drivers have told the ABC the rodents form a wave of movement as they scurry across roads and highways in and around grain-growing country.

The carnage is evident after trucks pass through, with rodent carcasses lining roadways.

Truckie and grain grower Peter Griffiths from Narromine said mice numbers were growing.

“There are plenty about at night, moving under the lights, they are definitely thickening up,” he said.


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