It is said that Australia’s out-of-control mouse plague could last for up to 2 years unless the government takes urgent action in giving farmers free poison which is an anticoagulant. The mice die of internal bleeding. The trouble is that the poison is dangerous to other wildlife. Trying to kill a specific animal with poison is very problematic because how do you direct that poison to that animal?
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For me, an animal advocate, this monumental mouse plague may in part be due to the mass slaughter of feral cats in Australia. This has been going on for a very long time. It is the objective of the authorities to kill all feral cats and they do not mind how they do it. Numerous stories of come out from Australian’s news media about clever devices and outrageous methods to kill feral cats which include throwing frozen poison-baited sausages out of helicopters! It reminds me of Apocalypse Now!
But I have always suspected that when you kill a top predator such as the feral cat which is part of the ecosystem in Australia you are liable to create other problems down the food chain. It has happened before. I don’t know whether the ongoing slaughter of feral cats in Australia has had a bearing on this plague of mice but it might have and in any case the presence of feral cats, or barn cats on farms would certainly help to get rid of them.
You only have to think of the original reason why domestic cats exist: the domestication of the wildcat in the Middle East. Ten thousand years ago the farmers of the region that is now Syria made friends with the wildcat to get rid of the mice because they were destroying grain stores. It was a mutual arrangement. Why doesn’t the Australian government employ semi-feral or community cats or even domestic cats to help control the mice population on farms?
It is far more eco-friendly to deal with large populations of mice that way than to chuck poison everywhere. It appears that the Australian government is reluctant to provide rebates to cover 50% of the cost of zinc phosphide bait or provide free baits for farmers because of the wider impact such as the possible effect on farm dogs, piggeries and other animals including wild animals. I suppose the farmers don’t care about these animals.
The New South Wales government has acquired 5000 litres of the super deadly rodent poison bromadiolone which is enough to treat 95 tonnes of grain. They are even offering to provide it free but are awaiting federal approval.
The farmers have been battling this plague for eight months while waiting for state government assistance and offers of practical support to the farming community. Nobody has put forward the possibility that the old-fashioned barn cat may be the best solution. Do Australians hate cats so much? Have they forgotten how the domestic cat came about in the first place? Surely, this is a moment to try out the barn cat and also, while they are at it, to reappraise their inhumane and obsessive desire to slaughter all feral cats on the continent.
Here is an example of a working cat who holds the world record in terms of mousing. Her name is Towser. She lived between 1963-1987. She holds the record for the champion mouser of all time. She was a female tortoiseshell (nearly all tortoiseshells are female as you know) owned by Glenturret Distillery near Crieff, Tayside, Scotland. She is reported to have killed an average of three mice a day, every day of her adult life, giving an estimated lifetime total of 28,899. The point that I am making is that a group of barn cats at a farm that is overrun with mice would be able to substantially control the mice infestation in my view. In addition to the actual killing of mice the deterrent factor is a major benefit of their presence.
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