Australia mouse plague may have yet to reach peak, expert warns

Australia mouse plague may have yet to reach peak, expert warns
Researcher warns no clear end in sight for farmers coping with major crisis

Australia’s “mouse plague”, which has seen homes across the country infested with dozens, if not hundreds of mice, may have yet to reach its peak, an expert has warned.

Speaking with The Independent, Steve Henry, a researcher at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, said the crisis has the potential to get worse before it gets better.

“There are two trajectories for mouse plagues,” Mr Henry said. “They go really really high and then crash away in one year or they go high and plateau through the winter and then they go again next spring.”

“Now, we’re going into winter with a pretty good crop, so that will mean there’s a lot of food and mice in the spring if they survive through the winter,” he said.

Trying to predict when and how an outbreak will end, Mr Henry said, is “very difficult … because they happen cyclically”.

Already, CSIRO has warned that the current outbreak, which is predominantly affecting New South Wales, along with Queensland, Victoria and other areas, could last months, if not years.

In New South Wales, Mr Henry said he has met families coping with hundreds of mice in their homes and on their farms.

One farmer Mr Henry recently spoke to said he had sent his family “off to town” for the weekend “because they were sick of the mice”.

While they were away, Mr Henry said the farmer “set about removing as many mice as he could”. In the end, “he took 400 mice out of his house”, he said.

The expert also recalled visiting a fuel station affected by an infestation and being hit by an “unbelieveable … smell of death” following rodent exterminations.

“It was almost unbearable,” he said.

“Mice are literally everywhere,” Mr Henry said. “In people’s houses, in their living rooms, in their clothes, in their cupboards, in their beds.”

This is not the first mouse plague Australia has suffered, with past years also seeing hordes of mice flooding farms.

Mr Henry said the recent outbreak comes after rains last year following “a run of dry years” left farms plentiful with grain – a perfect food source for mice.