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Mice invade Mallee farm

By Country News

When the farmer’s away, the mice will play.

A Victorian farmer making a night-time visit to a paddock has caught on camera a rodent ‘plague’ running rampant, highlighting the level of infestation in some parts of the state.

The footage, captured at an Ouyen property in Victoria’s south-west, shows thousands of the pests madly scurrying across a dusty field and has been viewed almost 120000 times since it was uploaded last Tuesday night.

‘‘That is unbelievable. Have a go at the movement there. Mice in plague proportions in our beautiful, dry, mighty Mallee,’’ farmer Melissa Pohlner remarks in the video, while shining her car lights on the fleeing mice.

Swarms of mice have been wreaking havoc across regional Victoria in the past two years causing considerable damage to crops, CSIRO researcher Steve Henry said on Thursday.

‘‘The Victorian Mallee is being hit very hard ... in localised areas there are certainly really high numbers of mice,’’ he said.

The ‘mouse man’, who has been running a monitoring program for five years, said he was catching 80 mice from 100 traps by the end of his program at Walpeup in mid-March.

‘‘But looking at that footage ... we would have trap saturation — 100 mice from 100 traps,’’ he said.

Mr Henry attributed the infestations to improved farming techniques providing a greater food source.

But the so-called plague could quickly end.

‘‘Mouse plague numbers tend to increase relatively slowly and then once they get to a really high number they drop away and disappear overnight,’’ Mr Henry said.

‘‘That’s a combination of disease and running out of food.’’

The CSIRO considers a plague to be more than 800 mice per hectare, but for farmers to claim economic damages the threshold is about 200 per hectare.