5 Jul 2010

Mice in their millions plague southern Australia

8:59 pm on 5 July 2010

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of new crops have been devoured across South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia in the worst mouse plague since 1993.

Little has been spared as the rodents have swarmed over sheds, silos and freshly sown seed, the ABC reports.

Leon Williams, a farmer in Streaky Bay, South Australia, is astounded by the numbers.

"You come out here in the night time and it's just literally a moving mass of mice in their millions," he says. "This could be an absolute disaster, worse than the drought."

Last season's bumper harvest around Streaky Bay created the perfect conditions for mice to multiply by providing lots of leftover food and shelter.

State government rules out relief

While some farmers are trying to recover by sowing again, others have given up on their cropping programme. A common complaint has been the price of zinc phosphide wheat baits commonly used for crop protection.

The South Australian Government says will not be offering any relief, despite having set up a working party to review its policy on mouse plagues.

As food sources run down and winter weather continues, many are hoping the rodents will die out naturally. There have been signs the situation is easing, as some mice are starting to eat each other and others are diseased.