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Cheesed-off town of Karumba hit by 1000 drowned rats a day

Locals are hoping for rain to help wash away a plague of rats in their North Queensland town.

Locals are hoping for rain to help wash away a plague of rats in their North Queensland town. Photo: AP

Each day at least 1000 dead rats are removed from boat ramps at a town in Queensland’s far north.

The “big hairy fellas” began arriving at the usually picturesque fishing community of Karumba this week.

Locals lock up what they can to keep them at bay indoors.

Outside, car bonnets are up so rats aren’t tempted to climb inside and gnaw the wiring.

Boats aren’t safe either, with rodents crawling up anchor chains and “making themselves at home”.

It’s hard to imagine the rat plague getting any worse.

But Carpentaria Shire Mayor Jack Bawden is bracing himself.

“We are only just starting to cop it,” he told AAP.

A “moving mass” of rats is heading north, he says, using the river systems to navigate their way to the Gulf Country town.

For months Bawden has heard stories of rodents wreaking havoc in communities such as Winton, Richmond and Julia Creek.

“Someone told me the other day that between Winton and Cloncurry the road looked like it was moving there was so many of them,” he said.

“They will all be coming this way unfortunately.”

An extended wet season this year is believed to have helped boost the native long-haired rat’s population in the state’s north-west, ensuring abundant vegetation where rodents can hide and eat.

Now they have reached plague proportions.

Dead rats began washing up at Karumba this week.

Every morning the council collects “1000 or more” from boat ramps, with the stench starting to affect locals.

The live rats are causing trouble too.

“You just try and keep everything locked up but whatever might give them cover and protection you open it up,” Bawden said.

“You keep the bonnet of your car up otherwise they will get in there and chew your wires.

“And sometimes when the rats fly up under the car, dogs pull the wiring out trying to get the rat – it can be a no-win situation.”

It’s even worse for boat owners.

“They are probably in a lot more trouble. Boats are a very expensive bit of gear with all the electronics,” Bawden said.

“People try to be smart and anchor them in the river but rats just go up the anchor chain and make themselves at home – you can’t win.”

There is a glimmer of hope that the problem may take care of itself.

“They are starting to cannibalise themselves. Whether that thins them remains to be seen,” Bawden said.

Mother Nature may have the solution.

“Someone asked me what I was doing about the rats and I said ‘praying for rain’,” Bawden said.

“I was talking to a long-term old fella here the other day and he’s seen a rat plague here twice.

“He said it’s the same each time – they just keep on coming until they are washed away.

“There’s nothing you can do. Unless it rains or floods, it is long term … nature caused it and nature will clean it up.”

-AAP
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