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.