I need help, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to visit my mother in central Queensland (Australia) but between her and me is a plague of rampaging mice. It is my worst nightmare, or at least one of my worst nightmares. Who can blame me with reports of a farmer recently catching a rodent-borne disease and people being bitten by mice in their hospital beds? So, I need info. If I drive the inland route from Canberra to central Queensland, will I be confronted by a moving carpet of mice that will squelch under my tyres or will the wave of mice part in front of me as I drive at high speed through the chewed pastures, not even stopping for coffee or a bite? Also, forget sleep. Otherwise, biting. Let me know.

Farmers are calling for widespread baiting which is both understandable and also troubling. Wildlife and domestic animals are unfortunately dying from secondary poisoning. It is a real conundrum.

Canberrans are nervous too about mice numbers in our patch. Pest exterminators report that rodent numbers have increased but that is to be expected at this time of year. My dog, Ama, knows that the rodents are out there. When she sees us head toward the back door, she winds up and bursts out of the house in a frenzy of barking.

Fortunately, not everything that skitters like a mouse and twitches like a mouse is actually a mouse. It could be an Aussie Antechinus, a small carnivorous marsupial that resembles a shrew. Anyway, I never see our native antechinus because they are too quick for me (plus my vision isn’t great). My son caught a glimpse of one the other day and he snapped a quick photo using his phone and binoculars. Check it out.

And you thought you needed a telephoto lens! Let’s see if we can crop this photo and still get reasonable detail. Not bad, considering the method used to take this photo.

We are not sure of the species. It is a chubby one so perhaps it is a pale form of the dusky antechinus?

Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, I do not have any mice photos so we can compare and contrast the feral pest with the hugely beneficial little marsupial. Anyway, what matters most is that it is not a mouse. The conical shaped head is an identifying feature of the antechinus. Phew! For those interested in learning more, I found this terrific article with some amusing information (see here).

Of course, as far as my dog, Ama, is concerned, any creature that dares come into her yard is fair game. Hmmm, perhaps I should take Ama on the road trip to protect me. Only problem is that she is on a low copper (ie. no red meat) diet.

Take care, everyone. No Orwell jokes, please.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

67 thoughts on “A Small Detail

    1. They do look remarkably similar to a shrew and like the shrew are unrelated to mice. That is where the similarities end, Mason. Our little antechinus are quite fierce in their small way. Also, the females have pouches.
      We are hoping recent floods might reduce the mice numbers.

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      1. πŸ˜€ Oh Ama.

        I hate the little vermin.

        I had so many mice in my house in Descanso, CA it would have been a nightmare if they had been in my room. It’s because of the mice that there were rattlesnakes in my yard. Mice in the attic. I was sitting grading papers one evening and I heard a snake in the attic (gopher snake, a big one) kill a mouse. I hate them, except for Njal. You might not remember him, so… https://marthakennedy.blog/2020/12/24/njals-saga/

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  1. I am catching a few mice here but not more than normal at this time of year. I opened the bonnet of my farm ute and there was a mouse so I have set a trap in there and have caught one nearly every day. If I had more traps I would get more probably. I use a live trap in the house as I have had antechinus in the past. The good way to tell the difference is a mouse’s tail is longer than its body.

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  2. I can offer no advice. Sounds like my worst nightmare too…although I have many phobias! Locusts, moths, mice, spiders, butterflies (yes, I know…pathetic!). I think I’d just be facetiming my mumma πŸ™‚

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  3. Amazing photo, your son must have very steady hands as it came up so sharp. The mouse invasion is devastating for the farmers, just when they finally have got over the drought and are producing crops. I worked in a piggery many years ago in NZ and mice and rats invaded the meal storage area. So I would always stand outside banging the door before I went in and I could hear them all scuttling away. So drive along sounding your horn…🐭🐭🐭

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    1. Thanks for the tip, Pauline. I had better get a bigger horn. Anyway, probably won’t make a move until July. A lot can happen in that time.

      And yes, my son does have a steady hand. All the practice with the jenga blocks in his youth must have helped. πŸ™‚

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  4. Tracy, I loathe, hate, detest rats and mice. I shuddered and bravely strolled down to a point I could no longer see those vermin. I am of no help. Good shot, even if I don’t like the subject.

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    1. That is quite okay, Suzanne. Thankfully our antechinus are completely unrelated to mice and other rodents (different genus and speciex, they have pouches) but you may not have picked that up in your quick skim.

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  5. If there was a large number of mice on the roads, I admit I could never drive through them. I can well understand your conundrum. Maybe the floods got rid of the worst?

    Thanks for sharing the image of antechinus – I’ve never heard of them before.

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    1. I hope so, Vicki. Sounds like they stay clear of the roads during the day. I only drive during the day. I’ll survive no doubt, after all plenty of people living in those communities do.
      Hope you get to see some antechinus one day, Vicki. There are bound to be some hiding out in the treed green spaces of Melbourne.

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  6. We just did a short trip to Lightning Ridge and back to Toowoomba and we did not really see any mice on the road, although talking to people in the ridge they have been a bit of an issue but I only saw one. I couldn’t drive through them either, maybe the secret might be to only travel by day.

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  7. Crushing the plague under your wheels. and ridding your country of an introduced, unnatural scourge, might be quite cathartic, and a much more environmentally friendly option than poisoning…

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      1. What a lovely neighbour!! I once spent a weekend having to go outside to get from the front rooms of my house to the rear because there was a dead mouse in the adjoining room and no-one around to get rid of it for me.

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  8. Great photo, Tracy. I can definitely understand your reluctance to drive to see your mother under the present circumstances. Having a dog with you would definitely help!

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  9. Lemmings in the Canadian Arctic, according to Walt Disney mythology commit suicide during population explosions. Lemmings do migrate but all Arctic predators chow down. Lemmings pose little harm to people but are pesky. (Getting into household stuff). The β€œmouse” pictured here on your blog is assumed to be by me to be an Antechinus marsupial β€œmouse”. Is this β€œmouse” insectivorous? Eating spiders and insects does does this insectivorous Antechinus marsupial pose any threat to people? I assume the various Australian predators are happy with this abundance of tasty treats.

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    1. I did not realize that the lemming myth came from a Disney “doco”. Makes sense. What an outrageous cruelty.
      It is a photo of an antechinus. Yes they are carnivores and quite fierce ones I understand. However, they leave humans alone. Antechinus are not big breeders like rodents. Males breed in winter for a two week period in winter and then die from exhaustion. Young can stay in the pouch for 50 days. The females live a couple of years, the males only 11 months. It is a high risk breeding strategy and hence they are very vulnerable.

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