Families are being forced to wash their bedsheets of droppings daily, hide their food in plastic tubs, and sleep with the fear of mice biting their toes during the night as a mouse plague sweeps New South Wales.
In hot spot areas like Mullaley, Walgett and Dubbo, sections of regional roads have become coated in mouse fur, as millions of dead mice hit by trucks and cars become matted on the tarmac.
Desperate to end the crisis, NSW Farmers vice president Xavier Martin, who operates a wheat, canola and sorghum farm at Mullaley, has issued a desperate plea to the state government.
He wants it to hire aerial applicators and drop poisonous mice bait across swathes of affected farmland to kill the rodents en masse.
“If the government had hired those aerial applicators and done a whole of valley or landscape baiting, it would’ve solved the problem,” Mr Martin told The New Daily.
“But at the moment we’re dealing with it like COVID on a cruise ship, where some rooms are infected and some aren’t. Some paddocks get baited and clean, but the ones next door can’t afford to so it’s like the contaminated COVID rooms. It keeps spreading.”
Mr Martin said the plague, which is costing farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars, had already spread to the Murray River bordering Victoria and Toowoomba in Queensland.
Last week, the NSW government announced a $50 million package to help farmers, households and business owners battle the mice plague.
As part of the package, primary producers can get free baiting, while households and small businesses can apply for rebates to help them pay for mouse baits.
The NSW government has also sought urgent federal approval for the use of the rodenticide bromadiolone, a hardcore rodent killer that has been likened to “mice napalm”.
Although Mr Martin is grateful for the government’s financial support, he said the nightmare is far from over.
“The problem is, it’s getting worse,” he said.
“That’s why we’re saying this was a problem that turned into a plague because of government inaction.”
Demands from animal rights group outrages farmers
Meanwhile, tensions reached breaking point this week after a global animal rights organisation urged the farmers to gently catch and release the mice instead of killing them.
Aleesha Naxakis, a media officer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), told Channel Seven’s Sunrise program on Wednesday the farmers using “lethal controls” were guilty of “speciesism.”
“What we’re truly angry about is that now these mice are going to be suffering unimaginable painful deaths,” she said of plans to poison the mice.
“They’re going to be choking, gasping for air, bleeding internally and if they’re lucky this will last hours – it could actually take days for them to die a painful and slow death.”
Instead, she pleaded with farmers to catch the mice and release them – an act of mercy farmers have slammed as “absolutely ridiculous”.
Robert Latham, a cropping manager at Haddon Rig merino farm in central-west NSW, said if PETA wanted to save the mice, “they can come and get them”.
“There wouldn’t be enough traps in the world to trap this amount of mice,” he told TND.
His wife Sarah said “even in the middle of the night, you can hear them running in the walls”.
“In your cars, in the local supermarkets. You have to check your bread because more often than not, they’ve been through it,” she said.