WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2ND, 2021
At night, the floors of sheds vanish beneath carpets of scampering mice. Ceilings come alive with the sounds of scratching. One family blamed mice chewing electrical wires for their house burning down.
Vast tracts of land in Australia's New South Wales state are being threatened by a mouse plague that the state government describes as “absolutely unprecedented." Just how many millions of rodents have infested the agricultural plains across the state is guesswork.
The risk is that the mice will maintain their numbers through the Southern Hemisphere winter and devour the wheat, barley, and canola before it can be harvested.
NSW Farmers, the state’s top agricultural association, predicts the plague will wipe more than 1 billion Australian dollars ($775 million) from the value of the winter crop.
The state government has ordered 5,000 liters (1,320 gallons) of the banned poison Bromadiolone from India. The federal government regulator has yet to approve emergency applications to use the poison on the perimeters of crops. Critics fear the poison will kill not only mice but also animals that feed on them. including wedge-tail eagles and family pets.
The plague is a cruel blow to farmers in Australia’s most populous state who have been battered by fires, floods, and pandemic disruptions in recent years, only to face the new scourge of the introduced house mouse, or Mus musculus.