Rats descend on Australian town, thousands more wash up on shore: NPR

Long-tailed mouse.

Bruce Thompson/Queensland

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Bruce Thompson/Queensland

Long-tailed mouse.

Bruce Thompson/Queensland

A rat epidemic is wreaking havoc in Karumba, a small coastal town in Queensland, Australia, where hordes of rodents chew through electrical wires and eat everything they can find – and wash up in huge numbers, creating a stench in the town. Community.

“The stench is very bad,” Carpentaria Shire Council Mayor Jack Bawden, which includes Karumba, told NPR. If coastal winds prevail, he added, “it’s still livable.”

The rural town is not alone: ​​other parts of western Queensland are also suffering from an epidemic of long-haired rats, whose numbers have exploded after heavy rains have boosted vegetation across hundreds of miles in the outback.

Researcher Emma Gray from Queensland University of Technology’s School of Biology and Environmental Science told NPR that the long-haired rat eats buds and leaves, then leaves north in search of more food.

Like the army, the rat mass also has a very effective multiplier force. Gray says they can “produce 12 young every three weeks when conditions are good!”

like Photos and video appear from the scene of the accidentThousands of rat corpses decompose in and around Karumba, washing up in clumps on seawalls and beaches.

A city in the grip of a “rat plague”

It is not unusual for thousands of visitors to descend on Karumba, which has a population of hundreds. These annual guests are the “gray nomads” – Retirees arriving in campers and recreational vehiclesAttracted by the allure of the stunning water views, fishing and relaxed atmosphere.

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But alarms were raised earlier this year. In July, a Carpentaria official informed the district council that “the public has reported an increase in the number of rats and mice.” The Council considered creating a fact sheet on what Minutes of the meeting It’s called the “rat plague.”

“They come in waves,” Karumba resident John Jensen said. 4BC radio station in Brisbane. “They seem almost trained and organised. They are numerous, my friend, and they swim in the rivers like little dogs.”

Everywhere you go, mice eat, and eat.

“They’re hungry, they’ve swum a long distance, they’ve crossed land a long distance, and they’re eating anything and everything they can get their hands on,” Jensen said.

Rats damaged a car by attacking its wiring at Derek Lord’s rental shop in Normanton, near Karumba. To Agence France-Presse. He added that the rodents were so bold that they broke into the duck cages and stole their eggs.

You can’t even escape them on the water. Rats were climbing the anchor chains of fishing boats and boats. Commercial fisherman Brett Fallon said he was seeing “at least 100 rats a night” on his boat. He told Australian ABC.

The rat migration ends at Karumba

The town of Karumba, shown in red, has long been a destination for large rat migration. “The rats hit the Norman River and started swimming,” Carpentaria Shire Council Mayor Jack Bawden told NPR.

Google Maps/Screenshot by NPR

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Google Maps/Screenshot by NPR

Queensland’s topography, with a river system winding its way up the north coast, draws the rodents towards the beach – and hordes of them arrive dead or alive at Karumba, a fishing and port community on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Mayor Bowden said: “The rats have hit the Norman River and started swimming as the tides and currents take a large number of people out to sea.” “Being tough little buggers, great numbers make it to the other side at Karumba.”

Once they arrive, there is little anyone can do to curb the plague. He added that traps had been set, but in the face of such crowds, this measure “is really a symbolic gesture.”

He said the best thing the government could do was remove the rat carcasses to keep the paths and boat ramps passable.

Animal control ranger Phil Greif said he collects dead rats by the hundreds — that’s how many rats can fit in each bag to dispose of. TV station 10 News First Queensland.

“On the first day, I got 18 mice, so 1,800 mice,” he said.

When will the plague end?

To the average person, a plague of rats might seem like a sign of the end of the world. But Gray says long-haired mice arrive in cycles.

She said: “This phenomenon is a natural process and occurs at irregular intervals ranging from 3-17 years.”

The last major rat migration or eruption in the area occurred about 12 years ago, Gray said. But their records go back centuries.

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“Once rat populations thrive or flourish, they also decline or collapse,” Gray said.

This decline can be linked to several factors, from a change in dry conditions to increased inbreeding, disease, and predators feeding on the influx of rodents. Feral cats, for example, eat well.

“In general, during a rat eruption, the area also sees a significant increase in the number of birds of prey such as kite-winged kites, black-shouldered kites and eastern barn owls,” Gray said.

For Bowden, the city’s mayor, rats are “nature’s nasty stranger, and nature usually cleans up the mess they make.” “This year we have all their glory and we can’t wait for them to disappear,” he added.

An alternative name for the long-haired rat is “plague rat”, according to the first edition Queensland Government website. The mouse’s conservation status is, as you might imagine: “less anxiety.”

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