Central Queensland farmers fear they are on the “cusp” of a mouse plague as rising numbers threaten to “explode at any time”.
- Some central Queensland towns, including Biloela, are seeing a major increase in mouse numbers
- Experts say good seasonal conditions following on from several dry years often drives this increase
- Farmers fear major damage to crops if numbers aren’t brought back under control before spring
Seasonal conditions in towns like Biloela, south of Rockhampton, are driving a noticeable increase in the mouse population.
Agronomist Campbell Hill says farmers are hoping they can get the mouse population back under control.
“Everybody’s hoping for a changing of weather or some disease to come in and reduce the incidence and prevent a plague, but at this point we’re kind of on the cusp,” he said.
“They could explode in numbers at any time and cause really significant financial loss, which would be pretty cruel, because we’ve had a couple of tough years and this is looking like a pretty good year.”
Farms ‘alive’ with mice
The impact of the pests on farmers can be devastating.
Darren Jensen, who grows sorghum, mung beans, wheat and chickpeas at Mount Murchison, has already noticed the damage to his paddocks.
But Mr Jensen says it is not a plague at this stage.
“While there’s not plague proportions, yes, you do see them running around,” he said.
“We are catching them in the house and if you go down to the silos at night time the place is alive.”
But it has been decades since Biloela farmers have seen so many mice in their fields.
Experts say that a mouse outbreak of this magnitude happens approximately every 10 years when a combination of conditions may drive higher numbers across the country.
Steve Henry is a research officer with the CSIRO and a leading mouse expert who says this increase often occurs in regions that are having a good season after having had a few dry years, such as in Biloela.
“As that outbreak has continued, we’ve started to get more and more reports from across the entire cropping zone of high numbers of mice,” he said,
Mr Henry says that farmers who are noticing more mice around are encouraged to act early.
“I think it really is staying vigilant [and] being prepared to bait early,” he said.
“Because once numbers get really high and they do a lot of damage to [the] crop, that puts a lot of food on the ground and that makes the bait less effective.
“If you can control mice early before they’ve caused that initial damage, that gives you the best chance of getting control.”