Farmers battling the severe east coast mouse plague have revealed the rodents have resorted to eating each other as food sources run out – with fears the infestation could reach Sydney by August as they search for more fodder.
Gunnedah-based farmer Xavier Martin said the mice were munching on the remains of their dead brethren after farmers found ways to block access to their crops and stored grains.
‘You’ll find the lower half of the mice left behind, so you still have to clean it up,’ Mr Martin told Newscorp.
Regional NSW has been dealing with a mouse plague for months with the rodents now munching on their fallen comrades (pictured)
Farmers NSW and animal rights group PETA said the government should have acted earlier before the mice (pictured) reached plague proportions
Farmers and country residents have been dealing with the mouse infestation since January after a particularly good growing season, with the soaring number of rodents damaging crops and contaminating water supplies.
With normal eradication methods failing to end the plague, the government has secured supplies of one of the world’s strongest mice-killing chemicals to distribute to farmers to help battle the scourge.
Farmers are desperate to get their hands on the chemical, even as animal advocacy group PETA said ‘bright and curious’ mice should not be poisoned.
However both farmers and PETA agreed that the situation should not have been allowed to escalate to the point where such strong poison was required, and the problem should have been nipped in the bud.
‘This is now a plague because the government hasn’t acted and NSW farmers have been telling them about it for months, We could have dealt with the problem early,’ Mr Martin, who is also vice president of Farmers NSW, said.
PETA spokesperson Aleesha Naxakis agreed, saying mass poisoning of the mice or letting them eat each other were both unsatisfactory.
‘We’re an animal rights organisation and we definitely don’t want to see the animals suffer. The real question we need to be asking is, why did the government wait so long to do something about this?’ Ms Naxakis said.
The government has secured a bulk supply of a mice poison to give to farmers to treat grain in addition to poisoned baits (stock image)
The mice are causing millions of dollars of damage to crops and contaminating water supplies
The NSW government said on Thursday it had secured 5000 litres of the anti-coagulant bromadiolone – enough to treat about 95 tonnes of grain – and would provide it free of charge once federal authorities had approved its use.
‘By securing a local supply of the chemical we ensure the NSW government is ready to roll – no waiting for overseas shipments, no immediate supply issues,’ Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said.
‘Experts will treat growers’ grain with bromadiolone completely free of charge to build a mice-free fortress to protect paddocks.
‘When used in conjunction with in-field zinc phosphide baiting, farmers will have a multi-layered defence against the rodents.’
Farmers will be notified about where to bring their grain for treatment once the locations of sites were confirmed.
The poison still has to be approved for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to bail crop perimeters.
As food sources become more scarce in the country, there are concerns the mice could quickly hit metropolitan Sydney by being transported on freight trucks.
Already there have been sightings of the rodents this week in the western suburbs, where houses were damaged in Erskine Park and Parramatta.
A woman sleeping in Goulburn woke up in the middle of the night to a mouse running through her tent (pictured)
Top scientists also say it is unlikely the infestations will settle over winter – instead ramping up- as mice flock into homes seeking shelter and warmth.
Kevin Joyce Pest Management technician Dieter Mafra said the mice would swarm to the Harbour City within the next two months, likely hitchhiking rides from intrastate on engine bays, trucks, cars and food crates.
‘They will travel to Sydney, I would say by August,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
‘There are already mice and rats here obviously, and with hotter conditions they usually move towards the beaches where there’s water – they need between 2ml and 5ml a day.
‘But with the colder winter conditions they will be looking for domestic roofs in houses and could get a free ride on the transport here.’
Although NSW’s Central West has been hardest hit by the plague, the Mouse Alert map, which is based on reported sightings, shows outbreaks in scores of towns across Australia’s east coast.
Videos posted online show the pests in rural NSW pouring out of crevices of freight bound for Sydney, while mice have also been reported rummaging through a charity’s scrap food stocks in Newtown, in the city’s inner west.
ABC Pest Control’s Bree Daniels said Sydneysiders who have never had a mice infestation could experience a ‘home invasion’ over winter months as rodents flock to warm roofs.
However, University of Sydney expert Associate Professor Matthew Crowther said the city is unlikely to attract millions of mice because there are no food crops like rural areas.
CSIRO principal research specialist Dr Peter Brown said plagues can last two years and they are currently monitoring 30 sites with the problem across the state.
Country Women’s Association of NSW chief executive Danica Leys said the unrelenting issue is taking a mental toll on residents.
Scientists say the plague will not abate over winter, as mice flock to houses for shelter and warmth
She said people have been getting sick from drinking contaminated water, are being bitten, and mice are chewing electrical wires, feasting on white goods in kitchen pantries, and excreting all over linen.
A truck driver, who travels between Tamworth and Dubbo, said he has been forced to spend hours cleaning mice remains off his vehicle.
Farmers have described the crippling plague as devastating to their livelihoods, with the NSW government recently announcing a $50 million relief package to address the problem.
Some farmers estimated they’d suffered losses of between $50,000 and $150,000 due to grain and fodder being destroyed, according to the NSW Farmers Grains Committee.
On top of this, a survey on farmers around NSW found that more than 80 per cent had suffered significant damage to machinery and infrastructure from mice.