Mouse plague in Australia

Article in WaPo about a plague of mice in Australia:

(Sorry if that’s behind a paywall for you.)

It doesn’t give a reason for it. I’m wondering if they’ve gotten too good at removing stray cats. Also, are the mice foreign invaders? Unless they’re marsupial mice, I would expect so.

At least it isn’t a deliberate thing like the [cane toads]

When I worked in a factory in London, we opened a crate with a machine from France packed in wood wool. There was a female mouse with a whole litter of babies who promptly scattered. We were finding mice, or evidence of them, for months.

Yes they are introduced mice.
Basically the reason is the same as any plague - exponential growth supported by sufficient available food. The last season was unusually wet and productive. Once the population gets past a certain point no amount of predation can hold it back. Once they get into the grain fields and grain store things can get really grim. You are fighting exponential growth with only a constant attrition capability. You could go out with a flame thrower and still not make any reasonable difference. Eventually they run out of accessible food, and then the plague burns itself out.

Australia has a serious problem with feral cats. The odd stray doesn’t even figure in the numbers. But a cat can only eat so much, and they have a much longer breeding cycle than mice. So even in perfect circumstances, the mice will outstrip the predators.

In general Oz doesn’t have many predators out there munching mice. Snakes would be great, but they will eat and go and curl up for a snooze for ages. The snakes are having a mini-boom of their own, but their breeding cycle is vastly longer, than a mouse, so again, they won’t track the mouse numbers.

This has been going on for decades. The late Steve Irwin featured a mouse infestation on The Crocodile Hunter.

They’re like locust / grass hopper plagues. Nothing much for years, then BANG:

“The mice had fun living with the king and eating his cheese. But the king did not like this.”

Drop bears will get you in the forests, salties eat people swimming in the estuaries, but mouse plagues happen in the wheat districts. Tourists and city dwellers only read about them.

These current ones are regular introduced mice which came to Australia with Europeans, but in drier parts of Australia there are also irregular plagues of native long haired rat [Rattus villosissimus]. Rain is not seasonal but happens in abundance every 5-10 years, at which point their population booms almost overnight to take advantage of the super-abundance of vegetation.

There’s a wikipedia page on mouse plagues in Australia here.

Yeah I can never throw them away. I get a new one when one stops working then I fix that then I have two. And my kids then buy fancy gaming ones but I still have the old ones. And they were giving them away at work at one time so I grabbed a few as spares. Have half a drawer full of them but I can never bring myself to ditch any.

Wrong thread, perhaps?

Steve Henry, a researcher at Australia’s national science agency, attributes the plague to an unusually abundant grain harvest, Live Science reports. According to the site, the surplus of grain drew in a surplus of mice earlier in the season than anyone had anticipated. SOURCE

It is worth noting that mouse plagues are not unusual in Australia. They are as common as once a decade or so. This one is apparently one of the worst in a long time though. The little beasties are super prolific.

I thought there weren’t any native placental mammals in Australia.


There are various placental bats and rodents that have been in Australia for millions of years.

Then there are dingos but they were probably introduced in the last few thousand years.

Yes. Seems the first wave of proper rats and mice were anything up to 20 million years ago. There are some species very close to those in New Guinea and Indonesia. Bats can of course fly in if they get lucky. One can also count seals. The Dingo came in with the native Australians who are mammals too :slight_smile: .

There’s a few - but restricted to bats and rodents. They’ve been here 10-15 million years. They are generally termed native and lumped with marsupials.

After that you get the Dingo [native dog], arriving as a commensal of Aboriginal people maybe 5000 years ago, although there are some claims for earlier dates.

All the other placentals you’d encounter in the wild in various parts of Australia - Old World rats and mice, cats, dogs, fox, goats, rabbits, pigs, buffalo, horses, deer, camels, children - are derived from imported animals brought by Europeans after 1788, and are generally distinguished as ferals. They have not lived in Australia long enough to have evolved into deadly and voracious man-eaters, and so are not considered worthy of being native.

I remember seeing this when it came out.

Was there some cultural reference that I missed? Otherwise, why the “whoosh”?

Re-read it - and remember the subject is mice.

How are the rabbits doing these days?

Well. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:
I see rabbits all the time. My cat brings the critters in - alive. I have no idea how he manages to drag them in through the cat door. I would say I have never seen them as prevalent as they are now for the last 20 years.

If you’re up for some nightmare fuel: footage of a former mouse plague.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you