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Conditions favour build-up of mouse populations over summer

Bumper crops combined with wet and windy weather at harvest is likely to leave more grain on the ground than usual over summer, fuelling a potential swell in mouse populations in Victoria and South Australia.

Grain growers in both States are therefore advised to reduce the amount of residual food available for mice and to closely monitor numbers and activity.

CSIRO researcher Steve Henry, who has been surveying mouse activity for a Grains Research and Development Corporation-funded project, says heavy rainfall during spring will further favour population build-up, especially in north-west Victoria where there is a high likelihood of an outbreak Autumn 2017.

Mr Henry says while mouse abundance remains relatively low at monitoring sites in Victoria and SA, he had noted that mice had started breeding earlier than usual (in early August) in the Victorian Mallee and Adelaide Plains in SA.

“We expect numbers will increase over summer and autumn, particularly given a good supply of food and favourable weather conditions through summer,” Mr Henry says. “Growers should remain vigilant and act accordingly to prevent damage at sowing.”

According to the GRDC’s Mouse Control Fact Sheet, mouse plagues usually follow a year of high grain production, particularly with heavy early or late-season rain.

Mr Henry encourages growers and advisers to report and map mouse presence, absence and level of activity using MouseAlert so others can see the scale and extent of localised mouse activity.

MouseAlert also provides access to fact sheets about mouse control and forecasts of the likelihood for future high levels of mouse activity in each grain-growing region.

“We need more producers using MouseAlert so that the project can deliver more accurate forecasts of regional changes in mouse numbers,” Mr Henry said.

The GRDC-funded mouse monitoring project is a collaboration with CSIRO, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.

Image: CSIRO researcher Steve Henry, pictured checking mouse traps as part of a GRDC-funded monitoring project, says growers should remain vigilant and act accordingly to prevent mouse damage at sowing. Photo: Alice Kenney