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Wednesday, 20 May 1970

Mr Grassby asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:

Will he arrange for the appropriate officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to study the current mice plague in New South Wales, including the role of marsupial mice, with a view to delineating factors which led to the plague, and to elucidating practical means of prevention or control.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The CSIRO Division of Wildlife Research has a continuing small-scale study on die house mouse, Mus musculus, which is responsible for the present plagues in the agricultural area of south-eastern Australia. The aim of the study is to understand the occurrence of mouse plagues and possibly to predict them. The results of the work to date suggest that a combination of three circumstances is necessary for mice to build up to plague numbers - a relatively high winter rainfall that thoroughly wets the subsoil and provides the mice in. the following summer with moist, cool and protected shelter in cracks in the ground; a good spring growing season pet milting much seed to set and providing ample food for the mice; and unseasonal rains in the summer enabling the mice to burrow into the cracked ground and breed prolitically

It appears that in most years normal weather conditions in south-eastern Australia keep mice numbers low by limiting suitable breeding conditions and food supply. However, it seems that a combination of these three conditions has occurred widely during the past season over widespread areas in South Australia, north-western Victoria and New South Wales.

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