The Australian state of New South Wales will spend $38.5 million to send a plague of mice eating their way across farms and invading homes “into oblivion,” a move hailed by farmers and rural residents who say they’re at their wits end with a growing tide of rodents.
Farmers and residents in rural communities for months had been calling on the state government to address the mouse plague. A year of consistent rain created near-perfect breeding conditions for mice, which can produce up to 500 offspring in a season, the Sydney Morning Herald noted.
And breed they did.
At least three hospital patients in rural New South Wales have been bitten by rogue mice, and farmers have posted videos to social media showing mice raining from the sky and running across hay bales like a dark brown mist. Farmers said they were worried about the winter crop surviving an onslaught of the hungry rodents, and said another wet season could lead to a resurgence later this year.
The New South Wales government also said Thursday it would seek “urgent” approval to use an outlawed poison called bromadiolone to treat the scourge. The chemical is a potent anticoagulant banned in California after concerns from environmental groups that it can travel up the food chain and kill other animals like mountain lions, bobcats and golden eagles.
“This is the equivalent of napalming mice,” the state agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “This chemical, this poison, will eliminate mice that take these baits within 24 hours.”
NSW Farmers, a lobbying group representing agriculture interests, said Thursday it was “relieved action is finally being taken to address the mouse plague crisis.”
The package also provides rebates for households and small businesses, and authorizes a limitless supply of free baits for those living in areas hit the hardest by the mouse plague.
“Rural residents have been forced to endure the impacts of this plague, and our recent survey on the matter shows the immense toll it has had on people’s health and wellbeing,” NSW Farmers President James Jackson said in a statement. “Communities are at their wits end.”
The CEO of the Country Women’s Association of NSW, Danica Leys, put it more simply: “There’s no respite when your home is being invaded by mice.”
“After enduring drought, fires and COVID-19, these areas now have a plague to contend with and they’ve been doing it on their own for months,” Leys said in a statement. “Along with crop, fodder and machinery losses, town businesses have had suffered stock losses and damage, and then they have to deal with the mice invading their homes and impacting their health, both physical and mental.”