26 September 2023

Seabirds safer after mouse plague ends

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Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s (QPWS’s) mouse eradication program on North West Island in the Capricornia Cays National Park has been declared a success.

The eradication program is part of the QPWS’s continuing weed and feral animal pest strategy.

Ranger, Damon Shearer said the island’s populations of wedge-tailed shearwaters and black noddies were initially at risk from feral cats, which had been introduced to the island as domesticated cats decades earlier.

“In the 1990s we eradicated the population of feral cats, and as the cliché suggests, when the cat is away the mice will play, and the population of common house mice increased,” Mr Shearer said.

He said this posed a significant threat to several seabird rookeries, as the mice ate the eggs and could also prey on the hatchlings.

“In May 2020, QPWS and Gidarjil Land and Sea Country Rangers surveyed mouse activity in strategic locations across the island by using the Black Trakka trapping tunnels,” Mr Shearer said.

“We set 120 traps on one night and when rangers examined the traps the next day mouse prints were found in 119 of the traps.”

He said the trapping tunnels did not actually trap the mice, rather a bait was placed in the middle of the trap and the mice walked along an ink pad to get to the bait, and as they left the trap blank pads captured their footprints.

“It was extremely important to begin a control program, and in 2020, utilising Reef Trust funding, we used a helicopter and a bait dispenser to drop rodent bait across the island,” Mr Shearer said.

“Once again QPWS rangers and Gidarjil Land and Sea Country Rangers used the Black Trakka trapping tunnels to conduct five post-treatment mice surveys from September 2020 to August 2022 and we are thrilled to report there were no signs of mice in those surveys.”

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