You're going to need a bigger cat.
April 30, 2021 8:01 PM   Subscribe

Consider yourself warned. Australia, right now, feels a little biblical. There was a terrible drought, then the worst bush fires ever recorded. A flood came next. Now it’s the turn of the mice.. posted by Toddles (33 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
The mouse plague is serious business and is nightmarish for people living in those areas by all accounts!

I was a little surprised the floods didn't get any international attention compared to the fires. It was serious for a while there in north-west Sydney - the whole North Richmond district was completely cut off for several days, with four bridges inundated and the inland mountain road closed by a landslide. They were dropping supplies by helicopter and getting pregnant women to hospital by boat. Up the coast it was even worse.

It was a little dark spending the start of 2020 trying to save my partner's mum's house in the Blue Mountains from the fires, then a year later, spending a weekend trying to prevent the same house from flooding and roof leaks.

Fortunately, we seem to have managed to eliminate COVID from the island, so that's a big win. But I find it sad that the thing Australians always manage to get behind, is closing borders. Currently even Australia citizens are being prevented from entering the country to get home. This is probably unconstitutional and there's a case against the government about this in the UN.
posted by other barry at 8:53 PM on April 30 [14 favorites]


Well, oughtn't the mouse spiders stop sitting on their pedipalps and earn their collective proper name then?
posted by y2karl at 9:09 PM on April 30 [10 favorites]


Weird; I had a dream about mice last night. I don’t remember the details, but I’m pretty sure it was pretty benign dream stuff. Tonight however, I fully expect a mouse-filled nightmare.
posted by TedW at 9:35 PM on April 30


I can't read the main article due to the paywall, but in case it's not been explained (and for those who couldn't read it either) it's being blamed primarily on the biggest harvest season they've ever had - good conditions led to so much wheat and barley production that a single harvest exceeded all available storage capacity in the country. Exports are being hampered by shipping bottlenecks (Covid) as are efforts at procuring more temporary storage. A lot of grain is thus being stored improperly or left in the fields, hence the abundance of food for the mice...

Mice can produce a litter of 10+ every 21 days and they can have pregnancies back to back with no waiting period, so you can have a stupendously exponential growth in numbers over a few months with abundant food supply.

TLDR it's a mostly human caused catastrophe.
posted by xdvesper at 9:36 PM on April 30 [12 favorites]


TLDR it's a mostly human caused catastrophe.
It feels like most of them are, these days.
posted by krisjohn at 10:14 PM on April 30 [9 favorites]


Would be curious to hear from Aussie epidemiologists, if there has been a concurrent rise in rodent-borne viral and bacterial diseases (leptospirosis, tularemia, plague, etc.). Tough to pile on climate change-induced diseases and environmental catastrophes, alongside a pandemic.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:23 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Well, oughtn't the mouse spiders stop sitting on their pedipalps and earn their collective proper name then?

only when their stinging tentacles retract back into their hollow fangs
posted by lalochezia at 11:40 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I can't read the article, it is behind a pay wall.

But I don't need to read it to know the "solution" will be killing the "problem" animals, as usual. What I *am* curious about is whether a single person who was so enthusiastic about viciously slaughtering millions of cats in Australia might be rethinking that decision now.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 11:50 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Mice aren't the only non-native species Australia is fighting. But the poison 1080/fluoroacetate (derived from the Australian native Gastrolobium grandiflorum won't help here because the mice are in agricultural settings dependent on -- wait for it -- non-native species.
posted by villard at 12:09 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


As mentioned in the article, the exploding mouse population has created a major spike in the snake population.
Anyone care to speculate on what's next?
posted by Metacircular at 12:22 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


When the last mouse plague hit, my friend had the most ferocious little terrier who was an excellent mouser. He was heroic in keeping them out of the farm house, but she said that after about three months of non-stop patrol duties, it was canine PTSD. He would do a thirty minute sweep and then hide under the dog blanket for the rest of the day.

He was really happy when she moved him back to the city.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 1:38 AM on May 1 [28 favorites]


What I *am* curious about is whether a single person who was so enthusiastic about viciously slaughtering millions of cats in Australia might be rethinking that decision now.

Cats have no place in the Australian outdoors. And I say that as somebody who shares his home with these two (one of whom was proudly carrying a dead mouse around our house for most of today).
posted by flabdablet at 2:16 AM on May 1 [33 favorites]


As someone who was in the flooded in district other barry mentions above, I can tell you that my mouse and rat situation is pretty normal so far (mostly bushland or horse paddock around me so we get the occasional mouse or rat - pest control takes care of them) but its damn hard to get your hands on bait or traps of any description. Partly, I suspect, that Covid is fucking up the usual manufacturing and import channels, but also because I think people around here are very much of the just in case mindset these days.
posted by ninazer0 at 2:17 AM on May 1


Cats have no place in the Australian outdoors.

For emphasis; there's a bunch of other things that aren't mice that cats will kill. I feel like the snakes are taking care of it, anyway; while I'm not exactly thrilled at the prospect of a booming snake population, this will probably mean a booming kookaburra population which will be extremely well timed for the return of tourism.
posted by Merus at 2:48 AM on May 1 [25 favorites]


Was going to jump in on the cats comment- the reality is that animal lovers in Australia are mostly anti feral cat. Cats eat way more animals, including endangered animals. There are slower, tastier native animals to eat than mice (which are nearby human habitation, which a feral cat avoids.)

We've had one in the house so far this season. Hopefully the rain comes at the right times (no flooding where we are) and floods the burrows.

It's probably the same kind of "protect our own" that is behind the border closures though.
posted by freethefeet at 4:22 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


They should task CSIRO with genetically engineering a cat with iridescent fur (the genes taken from bird feathers or similar) which, other than looking extra-photogenic, will be extremely ineffective as an ambush predator.
posted by acb at 4:29 AM on May 1


Iridescence - platypus(i) have that sorted - so how do we get them to do the rest of the job?
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:38 AM on May 1


Which is so not fair - we broke it. We need to fix it
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:39 AM on May 1


As mentioned in the article, the exploding mouse population has created a major spike in the snake population.
Anyone care to speculate on what's next?


Mongeese?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:50 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


The answer to feral cats, is, of course, coyotes, who will breed with the feral dog populations to produce coyotes that aren't afraid of humans. I could send a few from the neighbourhood, if anyone wants some to get started with.
posted by bonehead at 6:10 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I am not typically squeamish, but oh god that video of the mice is the hay was terrifying
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:17 AM on May 1


xdvesper: "I can't read the main article due to the paywall, but in case it's not been explained"

The article is just an opinion piece and light on details, so thanks for the explanation. It seems Australia has weathered multiple mouse plagues in the past - I'm so revolted and salute the valiant farmers and shop owners waging battle.
posted by bluefly at 9:03 AM on May 1


The answer to feral cats, is, of course, coyotes, who will breed with the feral dog populations to produce coyotes that aren't afraid of humans. I could send a few from the neighbourhood, if anyone wants some to get started with.

"Coyote Starter Kit" is the band name I've been looking for all these years.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:45 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


I can't read the main article due to the paywall

Main article via archive.is
Bypass Paywalls Clean also works to get to WaPo articles directly.
posted by flabdablet at 10:09 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I would caution that too many coyotes is a problem we don't really have an answer for yet. Timber wolves do show some promise, but there have been some breeding issues there too. Maybe more bison are the way forward.
posted by bonehead at 10:39 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I do not wish to be woken in the middle of the night by a bison running across my face.
posted by flabdablet at 11:00 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


If you don't wake up before the point the bison actually gets to your face, i believe you have other problems.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:14 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Fair enough. I probably do sleep a bit too heavily. But I don't want them in my linen press either.
posted by flabdablet at 11:44 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


the pending snake explosion really pushes that Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly ditty, writ epically large

hang in there, Australia
posted by elkevelvet at 11:53 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


A thundering herd in the hay shed and the world's biggest brown snake asleep in the bathroom... this would never have happened if Barnaby was still in charge of quarantine. Bloody Hollywood C listers think they can just swan in here with a breeding pair of bison in their hand luggage and nobody will say boo to them any more.
posted by flabdablet at 1:04 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


and even playing the piano

I was really disappointed not to hear Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in the linked video.
posted by kersplunk at 3:01 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


The answer to feral cats, is, of course, coyotes, who will breed with the feral dog populations to produce coyotes that aren't afraid of humans.

That's the beautiful part...
posted by zamboni at 5:49 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]


There were also the spiders that appeared during the floods. As a first born child I'm starting to feel a bit nervous.

The article has the excellent quote: "There’s no more spiders than would be there usually,” she said. “You’re just seeing more of them. Most of the spiders that you’re seeing … are ground-dwelling spiders."
posted by kjs4 at 12:39 AM on May 4


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