By OLIVER BROWN
ALTHOUGH the district has entered the coldest months of the year, local farmers are concerned about a potential resurgence of the mouse plague.
Coonamble farmer James Nalder said he was looking forward to a bit of a breather from the mice during the winter season but has noticed numbers are beginning to climb again.
“Things had been reasonably quiet around our homes and sheds but in the last two weeks, we have been seeing rapidly increasing numbers of mice,” Mr Nalder said.
“We have also seen them start showing up again in our paddocks – I’ve heard that areas west of Coonamble like Quambone are having their planted chick peas eaten.
“We were at the footy the other weekend and it was all people were talking about – it was just like it was earlier in the year when the numbers were crazy.”
The influx of numbers means agricultural service AGnVET Services Coonamble has observed a recent spike in purchases of mouse baits by local farmers.
“We’ve had to order more MOUSEOFF bait – it’s currently our biggest seller – we’re probably getting about 10-15 bulk sales a day,” Customer Service Officer Shatarne Endres said.
“Farmers are just getting more and more annoyed – it seems to be escalating to crazy levels and we’ve heard about a lot of interesting traps this week.”
The news that mice numbers are increasing rather than decreasing came as a surprise to CSIRO Research Officer Steve Henry, who has been researching the impact of the mouse plague as well as potential solutions throughout the year.
“It does surprise me if there are reports of increasing numbers because we would be expecting numbers to plateau at this time of year,” Mr Henry said.
“Based on our research, we believed the mice would have stopped breeding six to seven weeks ago – we’ve been doing some trapping in big paddocks and based on 100 autopsies, only one mouse displayed signs of breeding.
“If people are seeing mice around their homes again, the one thing I can think of is as the weather gets colder, mice might be wanting to come inside where it’s warmer.”
According to Mr Henry, though numbers aren’t meant to spike again until the spring, the CSIRO still recommends all farmers that have planted their winter crop remain vigilant for signs of damage, after which it is time to start baiting again.
Mr Nalder said, based on the kinds of numbers he and his fellow farmers were seeing now, he is nervous what that meant for springtime.
“Temperatures have been warmer this time of year than previous years – I was only hearing on the Country Hour the other day that mice only need it to be around 4-5 degrees to be out in the open – so that could be a reason,” he said.
“What I’m now wondering is what’s going to happen come spring when breeding gets into full swing – we probably already have high numbers compared to this time last year and we all saw what happened after that.
“It feels like in the last 12 months, we’ve only had three or four months of less activity and a solid eight or nine months dealing with them – we thought we’d seen the last of them but it seems they’re coming back to bear again.”