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Australia gripped by rat plague of biblical proportions

Virgilio Marin

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A catastrophic rat infestation is sweeping across eastern Australia in what some people describe as a “plague of biblical proportions.” Journalist Lucy Thackray shared on Twitter a clip of dead and live rats seemingly raining down on a farm in New South Wales.

The video was taken while a silo was being cleaned out. It featured dozens of dead and live rats falling along with the grains from a tube. Some of the critters managed to run off while the dead ones piled up on the ground.

Even if grain’s in silos, mice can get to it. Like Tyler Jones discovered in Tullamore when cleaning out the auger and it started raining mice #mouseplague #mice #australia

The clip attracted hundreds of comments expressing concern about the infestation. One Twitter user wrote, “I keep thinking the mouse plague footage can’t get any worse but then it does.” Another penned, “Hear often about raining cats and dogs but never before raining mice. How horrible.”

Religious website Israel365 News speculated that Australia’s rat problem was the latest plague “sent by God” after the locust plague in Africa and the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. It noted that the nation’s rat problem resembled the Biblical plague that left the land of Egypt bereft of food.

Mouse plague destroys crops, appliances

New South Wales farmer Chris Kemp told Australia’s ABC News that the region had never experienced a mice plague as bad as this. He remarked that mice were everywhere, from fields to houses to sheds.

“This is probably the worst I have seen,” he said. “When you mow your lawn, you get 50 or 100 mice running away from you.”

An unexpected relief came from birds of prey such as falcons and magpies, which perched on power lines waiting for the mice to leave their hiding places, Kemp said. But the predatory birds were not enough to quell the rat infestation, as the farmer had to use gallons of rat bait every week to save his crops.

“We had to bait all our cropping country just before harvest. The mice were starting to eat the grain and eat the pods on the canola,” Kemp said.

Emma Henderson was also dealing with the plague in her home in the town of Merriwa. She said that mice made a nest around her oven and pulled the insulation to make themselves more comfortable, causing the appliance to overheat and trip.

“I pulled the oven out with my son, and we found their little nest and a whole heap of insulation down the back of the wall, so I lost my oven, and the smell, oh the smell,” she said. The mice also destroyed her freezer, juicer and air fryer, leaving her with a bill of more than 1,000 Australian dollars ($777). (Related: New York City is being forced to deploy an army of 10,000 cleanup workers in response to worsening problems with trash and rats.)

The growing mice population was the result of the rains that pummeled the region after a long period of drought, according to Thackray. She said that the drought killed the animals that preyed on the rats. So when it started raining, the rats flourished alongside the crops that fed the four-legged pests.

The journalist added that mice normally stop breeding early in the year, but the critters continued to multiply. A cold snap or rain might make things worse, she opined.

“[By] the time you come to spring, which is when you really see them start multiplying their numbers, we’re worried about next year when we’re going to have an even bigger base to start from in terms of mouse population,” Thackray said.

Mice start breeding at six weeks of age and can give birth every 21 days after that, which means a pair of rats can give rise to 500 offspring in a season, according to ABC News.

On May 13, the state’s agriculture minister announced that the state would provide free bait to all primary producers and repay eligible households and small businesses for purchasing bait. The state would also fund research on how to effectively control the region’s mice population to prevent another rat plague.

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