Hundreds of mice, stripping shelves of food, eating everything in their sight: it sounds like something out of a horror film.
- The Gulargambone supermarket has lost $30,000 worth of stock
- A plague of millions of mice impacting the western region of NSW
- Businesses are catching 400–500 mice per night
But it is the daily reality for Gulargambone grocer, Nav Singh.
“We actually are catching between 400–500 every night, sometimes 600, it’s pretty bad,” he said.
Gulargambone is a small community of about 500 people, between Gilgandra and Coonamble, about 526 kilometres north-west of Sydney.
Many locals rely on the supermarket for everyday needs, with large chain supermarkets more than an hour’s drive away in Dubbo.
Mr Singh said he has been spending around six hours extra per day cleaning to deal with the filth.
“It’s been pretty terrible this past month or so. It’s getting worse here.
“They are doing a lot of damage — we have thrown away around $20,000–$30,000 worth of stock so far.”
Toilet paper in short supply
This time last year shop shelves were stripped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While people were no longer hoarding toilet paper, the mice had different ideas.
“We have most stock in containers and stock in the fridge,” Mr Singh said.
He said they were trying their best to keep basic supplies available to their loyal customers.
“People are still supporting us, and they are accepting of the smell because they know what we are going through,” Mr Singh said.
Calls for government help
Mr Singh said the region’s mice plague was no longer just an agricultural issue.
“I think the government should help people around here — especially the small businesses, because if they can’t get cash in their tills, eventually they’ll have to close,” he said.
Member for Barwon Roy Butler has called on the state and federal governments to offer some form of rebate for controlling the problem.
“I’ve been asking for assistance in meeting the cost of baits — and that’s just not people on farms that’s also people in town, in businesses, a lot of people are on limited or fixed incomes and the cost of keeping up the baiting is just crippling them financially,” he said.
“Any business you walk in to you can smell it — you can not only smell their presence through faeces and urine, but also those dead and decaying which, for people who have been through such a tough period, it’s not good for their wellbeing,”
A spokesperson for the New South Wales Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said, “both the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services are providing information and assistance to landholders about how to control mice on farms”.
“Most farmers incorporate mice control via in-crop baiting with commercial mice baits as part of their management strategies.
“Mouseoff is readily available in commercial quantities from rural supply stores.
“DPI is working with the Commonwealth Government to ensure there are no supply-chain issues.
“Those looking to control mice in their homes and businesses must be aware that Mouseoff is for commercial in-crop use only.
“Using it in a household context can lead to instances of poisoning, with both the NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) both issuing statements recently.
“People who are looking for information on how to control mice in their homes should contact the EPA and purchase household appropriate baits.”