AUSTRALIAN towns have been overrun with a mysterious mouse infestation – as 'hundreds of thousands' of the little creatures run riot and destroy crops.
The rodents have swarmed into homes in rural New South Wales and parts of other states after breeding during unusually heavy rain.
Meanwhile, numbers have exploded during the summer – and experts warned there may not be a winter slowdown, leaving farmers fearing for their yields.
Toe-curling video shows huge numbers of the creatures scurrying across roads and into fields.
The footage, shot in a town with a population of 1,500, captures hundreds of mice crossing the carriageway in the dark.
Now academics from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) say the problem may yet get much worse.
Al Karanouh, the mayor of one NSW town, told News.com.au: "They showed up from nowhere.
“Hundreds of thousands of them, invading people's homes and businesses.
"It’s quite a hard problem getting rid of them all.
“Obviously they smell when they die, they eat everything in your home, and their droppings are bad.
"There are big quantities of them.”
CSIRO research officer Steve Henry said the agency had received reports of infestations across almost 1,000 miles of the south-east of Australia.
“Mice start breeding when they’re six weeks old, and have a litter every 19 to 20 days after that," he told the publication.
"They can have up to 10 pups per litter, which means the rate of increase is really dramatic.
“As soon as they have a litter of pups they fall pregnant again.
"They gestate the next litter while feeding the previous one.”
Many farmers have already harvested their crops.
However, it's feared the mice will continue to breed in the same way – threatening all future yields.
Locals suffered a similar plague in 1984, when one farmer was shown on the evening news using a flamethrower to wipe the creatures out.
But the best hope to get rid of the pests is a cold snap or heavy rainfall, one local councillor said.
Experts also say that when the rodents breed too quickly, they deplete food sources – and spread disease among each other.
“As the food runs short and disease goes through the population, they start to eat their offspring. That makes the population crash away rapidly,” Mr Henry said.
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