Colin Hickey loves to watch the magpies in his backyard in southern New South Wales, but lately their warbles have literally died down.
- A Corowa resident believes five magpies in his yard could have died from mouse poisoning
- CSIRO is watching studies around the world on alternative poisoning methods
- Residents should report incidents where other animals are poisoned
In the past week, Mr Hickey has found five dead magpies in his Corowa yard.
“It’s extremely unusual. I mean the maggies are [usually] very healthy,” he said.
“I’m a wildlife man, I’m a pensioner, I just sit back and watch my maggies. They entertain me.”
He has also found some magpies that have behaved unusually or appeared to be sick, including one that was sitting on a bucket under a tap eager for a drink.
“He was tame enough for my son to walk up and pat him,” Mr Hickey said.
“He did a big poo which was green and flew away, and I haven’t seen him since.
Mr Hickey believed the sick and dead magpies could be linked to poison being used by residents amid the mouse plague swarming across parts of the country.
The mice are beginning to increase in Corowa, with Mr Hickey having caught five at his home over the past week.
He would like to see other methods put into play to manage the mice.
“I don’t know the answer. The mouse plague is a problem, but there’s other way of attacking it other than poison.”
Poison in the food chain
CSIRO Rodent Management Research Team leader Dr Peter Brown said anti-coagulant mice bait was the most commonly used in Australia and was the main form of bait sold at retail stores and used by commercial pest management.
“So depending on what kind of baits are being used, there can be different impacts on other wildlife.”
Dr Brown said colleagues around the world were looking at alternative methods to killing mice without the risk of non-target or secondary poisoning, including at the Danish Pest Infestation Laboratory.
But finding the perfect poison is proving challenging.
He said studies in Europe have also shown some genetic resistance emerging in rodent populations to the anti-coagulant rodenticides.
“It’s happening everywhere. I’m just grateful we’ve got a team.”
Residents to report poisoning
Environment Protection Agency NSW said it had not yet received specific reports of animal deaths associated with mouse baits.
The community is encouraged to make reports to the EPA’s 24 hour Environment Line on 131 555.
All reports received are followed up.