Misguided mouse baiting could have deadly consequences for wildlife, say local experts

Genevieve Jacobs 20 May 2021 46
mouse in kitchen

Experts say more than mice could be at risk in your household from misguided baiting. Photo: File.

While rural communities around 200 km or more away from the ACT are beginning to see the effects of the long-running mouse plague, Canberra and surrounds are thus far largely free of the invaders, with fingers crossed that a cold winter will keep us safe.

Conservationists, including the venerable Birdlife Australia group, are warning that the rollout of a highly toxic chemical bait in surrounding NSW could wreak havoc on native wildlife. They are advocating strongly for trapping as an alternative control method or using other, less harmful, rodenticides.

And local wildlife experts warn that it’s not only magpies, butcher birds and owls who could be affected by misguided use of the chemicals, but also family pets.

“If mass baiting occurs in Canberra, dead and dying mice, and those carrying sub-lethal loads, will be eaten by magpies, butcherbirds, currawongs and kookaburras, among others, many of which will die or become fatally weakened. Family cats and dogs will also be affected,” local nature expert and Region Media columnist Ian Fraser warns.

“We need to think this through much more thoroughly and take advice from ecologists and ornithologists, not just the pest control industry.”

Mice have been sighted in significant numbers west of Young and around Tumut, and there’s a noticeable increase closer to the ACT. But reports that millions of mice are rolling unstoppably in our direction are not accurate at this point, and experts say that taking preventative action with excessive baiting could be highly damaging.

Mice in plague proportions will reach a density of up to 3,000 per hectare. The ACT last experienced a major mouse plague in 1994, and researchers say that while mice enjoy the shelter of warm houses, large numbers won’t survive sub-zero temperatures and winter rainfall.

READ ALSO: Urgent action needed as plague proportions of mice head south

The NSW Government has requested an emergency permit to use large quantities of Bromadiolone in agricultural areas, a second-generation anticoagulant that kills animals by causing internal bleeding.

It does not kill immediately or break down after it is ingested, meaning mice who have eaten it can be caught and eaten by other animals. Studies in Australia have found rodenticide in dead birds of prey, including boobook owls and wedge-tailed eagles.

Poisoning with these baits is extremely painful for wild birds, but the chemicals are widely available on supermarket shelves, which were reportedly stripped bare this week by Canberrans.

Grain farmers, in particular, have welcomed the news in an effort to combat huge numbers of rodents on the ground, which are destroying machinery, eating crops and wreaking havoc.

However, BirdLife Australia says that if the NSW Government’s request is approved by the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA), unprecedented amounts of Bromadiolone will enter natural food chains. They’ve described plans for mass baiting with the chemical as “extremely concerning”.

“As we try to control the harmful impacts of the mouse plagues affecting some regions right now, we need to make sure native birds and wildlife don’t suffer unintended impacts,” says BirdLife Australia Urban Birds Program Manager Holly Parsons.

“When the APVMA reviewed the use of rodenticides last year, we called for a ban of their use except by licenced professionals due to the harmful impacts they have on birds.

“Obviously, measures need to be taken to combat the mouse plague and support regional communities, but there are other, less harmful chemicals available.”

Ian Fraser agrees.

“It’s now almost 60 years since Rachel Carson, in her book Silent Spring, warned us of the catastrophic effects of widespread pesticide use in the environment and, in particular, on birds,” he says.

“While it changed in many ways how we thought about pesticides, we are often still too ready to reach for the poison as a first option and ignore the impacts on the rest of the interconnected web of life.”

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46 Responses to Misguided mouse baiting could have deadly consequences for wildlife, say local experts
Dilandach Dilandach 9:27 am 21 May 21

“While rural communities around 200 km or more away from the ACT are beginning to see the effects of the long-running mouse plague,”

…are you serious? I’m at the top edge of Belconnen and my whole street has been dealing with it for a couple of months. Every woolworths and bunnings around canberra has been stripped of mouse / rat control stock for probably longer. It’s not just my area that is dealing with it. So to see these reported stories of the mouse plague ‘just beginning’ or ‘predicted to start hitting canberra’ is straight up ridiculous.

I’m on the 9th round of throwing around ratsak packets (five at a time) and cubes. They get picked clean completely.

nobody nobody 10:16 am 21 May 21

Time for Canberrans to get rid of all those compost bins in many backyards, or buffet bars for mice.

Justin Watson Justin Watson 10:44 am 21 May 21

If they insist on this they have to bait and trap the mice and dispose of them so prey can't get to them. If we start to lose birds of prey and snakes to dead poisoned mice, the problem will just get worse, plus we'll be endangering native wildlife. In fact surely there are mouse traps that don't even use poison, that will capture large number of mice?

    Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 4:17 pm 21 May 21

    Justin Watson there is - lot of farmers are using bucket traps with successfully without pesticides https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KwN5Ic0oVjE

Donna Venables Donna Venables 10:56 am 21 May 21

I nearly lost my cat two years ago because of rat poison. The vet figured out what was wrong with her. 8weeks of treatment. Over $800. Vetpay was great. She is healthy now and a great little hunter. She brings home rats and mice. They go in the bin straight away.

    Canberrasnakecatcher Alex Canberrasnakecatcher Alex 1:36 pm 21 May 21

    Donna Venables I wonder how many native animals she also kills...

Jayne Denise Jayne Denise 11:26 am 21 May 21

Sadly, if your neighbours are using baits your pets are at risk 😞

    Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 4:17 pm 21 May 21

    Jayne Denise of course only the vets will win here . Since supermarkets have been stripped of poisonous ☠️ baits - sadly it’s inevitable.

    Karen Feng Karen Feng 5:28 pm 21 May 21

    Jayne Denise depends on the bait. the bait i used was recommended by the pest control guy. the idea is for them to get thirsty and drink water till they drown. my brother was worried that a rat will die in the fish tank. Hence why i had to buy lota of cage and use no bait except in the ceiling space.

Jo Cooper Jo Cooper 12:34 pm 21 May 21

I live less that 70km from Canberra. We DO have a mouse problem!!!

    Rachel D Anderson Rachel D Anderson 2:41 pm 21 May 21

    Jo Cooper we certainly do, especially in West Belconnen.

    ToniandRod McIntyre ToniandRod McIntyre 3:30 pm 21 May 21

    Rats and mice in Flynn

Fatt Mallon Fatt Mallon 12:57 pm 21 May 21

Samantha Harding this better not happen while we are away....

Jackie Fuller Jackie Fuller 1:37 pm 21 May 21

I have a mouse problem in my garage at the bottom of my garden....no bait just traps.

Don't want the darn things to come to my house!!

Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 1:42 pm 21 May 21

Have the scientists come up with a contraceptive bait to stop them breeding? That might be less toxic for other species

Ted Nash Ted Nash 1:42 pm 21 May 21


    Joanne Mitchell Joanne Mitchell 4:24 pm 21 May 21

    Ted Nash they use this in the country and it works

Mookie Moo Mookie Moo 3:50 pm 21 May 21

Baiting is seriously horrific! The animal can take days to die in pain while it destroys each organ as they rupture. So inhumane! Use traps.

    Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 4:38 pm 21 May 21

    Mookie Moo it takes minutes and is horrific but traps are no alternative with the volume of,rodents here.

    Mookie Moo Mookie Moo 4:51 pm 21 May 21

    Fortress Epiphany The pellets that get used in suburbs do not kill them in minutes. I’ve seen it! Both mice & native water rats that crawled to my bedside on their dying breath with bloody little paws that had eaten bait days before. An image ingrained in my mind.

    Bones Andtombstones Bones Andtombstones 6:50 pm 21 May 21

    Mookie Moo take a trip to gilgandra (you may need to put this into your gps as it’s outside of the city) and give them your counsel. Report back on how you’re received.

    Mookie Moo Mookie Moo 7:21 pm 21 May 21

    Bones Andtombstones I grew up in the country & perfectly aware of where that is, thanks. But we were talking about suburbia.

Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 4:37 pm 21 May 21

I’m aware of how bad the baits are but I use them as we have so many of the bastards !!! I had friends whose house burned down because the mice chewed through the wiring....that’s it happening to me !!!

    Bones Andtombstones Bones Andtombstones 6:51 pm 21 May 21

    Fortress Epiphany water traps work well, you can kills hundreds of the buggers in a short period of time. Feel for ya Penny.

    Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 6:59 pm 21 May 21

    Bones Andtombstones I wish we could as it’s sad to watch them die but I need to keep all the disgusting damage they do at the front of my mind.

Not The Mama Not The Mama 5:05 pm 21 May 21

OK, so can someone please tell me how I can stop them coming into my house without baiting, or having them die in a horrific way in a cage?

Lesley Smalley Lesley Smalley 5:14 pm 21 May 21

How many cats would be needed to get rid of the mice in the rural areas ?

    Jackie Fuller Jackie Fuller 5:34 pm 21 May 21

    Lesley Smalley have you seen the mice ....no cat going to fix that!.

    Bones Andtombstones Bones Andtombstones 6:52 pm 21 May 21

    Lesley Smalley dogs are better at it than cats. Cats are useless in this situation. There’s millions of mice. MILLIONS!

    Matthew Taber Matthew Taber 7:19 pm 21 May 21

    Lesley Smalley cats are already a problem. They kill a lot of native wildlife.

    Brad Falk Brad Falk 7:09 am 22 May 21

    Lesley Smalley one big cat 🐈

    Lesley Smalley Lesley Smalley 8:08 am 22 May 21

    Wild cats are not around so much , suburban cats are mostly indoor only now, which is fair enough .

    If lots wild cats were allowed to roam in areas with risk of mice infestation perhaps it would not have got to the situation it is now .

    I guess we would have to weigh up death of wild life versus devastation of crops and possible disease . 🤷‍♀️

    Guna Adens Guna Adens 8:36 am 22 May 21

    Lesley Smalley Tooo many but apparently there are so many mice they also have lost interest in catching them

    John Tozer John Tozer 8:54 am 22 May 21

    Lesley Smalley - Thank you for that, EXPERT!

Karen Feng Karen Feng 5:24 pm 21 May 21

Best method is to find how they get in and keep them out.

my mum used to have a takeaway shop. i ask the pest control guy how do i keep them out. his response was "read my shirt". The experts control them but wont keep them out.

Because I'm terrified of them i might have gone insane with what i did next.

I had food out that tricks them to walk over wet green paint so they will leave a trail. Rats are more clever.

Eventually, i managed to seal off EVERY ESCAPE ROUTE.

The rest we trapped using the cage.

My mum's complaint was that then they also can't escape. But i rather no more can get in. All food source are hidden. and surfaces are bleached. It force the final rat to take the bait in the cage.

Then there is the flyscreen door. I had an irrational fear that mice was coming from the flyscreen and i told my mother to keep the 2nd door close. the idiot didn't. turns out my "irrational fear" was correct. Mice from the nearby field was coming in through the hole in the flyscreen.

Against my mother's protest to leave the flyscreen the way it is. I place metal mesh at the bottom. it was ugly. but according to my mother she witness mice did made an attempt to bite through.

.......after all these incidents. NO MORE RODENTS. best method is to keep them out.

Unfortunately with cockroaches we need the expert to do their thing.

    Michael Duggan Michael Duggan 9:53 am 09 Nov 21

    People with a mouse problem, with older houses in particular need to block off any gaps between internal pipes and walls pipes Stuffing the gaps with "Steelo" steel wool seems to do the job pretty well. Although I haven't seen any toothless mice to prove it is working.

Mark Nicholls Mark Nicholls 9:42 pm 21 May 21

I’m in Wamboin where we see a lot of brown and tiger snakes. I’m wondering if baiting the mice and rats would see snake numbers decrease??

Kurt Buckney Kurt Buckney 10:46 am 22 May 21


russianafroman russianafroman 2:17 pm 22 May 21

Just kill all the mice. Not hard. Why RSPCA or Greenpeace or whoever it was had to come out and complicate it, I don’t know. In 2021, we are afraid of offending the mice rather than exterminating them.

russianafroman russianafroman 2:18 pm 22 May 21

Funny how we have all cats inside the home now. Reminds me of when they killed all the cats and dogs during the black plague, so there was nothing to kill all of the rats.

Nic Agius Nic Agius 4:27 pm 22 May 21

Paris Pentreath need to make sure Louis doesn’t eat one

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