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Rats horrify Aussie fishing town as it 'comes alive' with rodents

Queenslanders say the number of rats has reached plague proportions, with some roads heaving with the rodents.

Millions of rats have moved in on a remote Queensland town, horrifying residents of the picturesque fishing spot with a putrid smell left behind by the mounds of dead rodents heaped along beaches and boat ramps.

Locals in Karumba, in the Gulf Country between the Top End and the Northern Territory, say the rats — a native species — started appearing a few weeks ago but have recently become difficult to ignore.

Images and videos posted on Facebook this week show what appear to be hundreds of thousands of dead rats on the edge of boat ramps, on the ground of a scenic lookout and floating in the water or on the sand.

Piles of the dead rats on the Karumba shoreline.
Locals in Karumba said the rats started appearing a few weeks ago but are now out of control. Source: Facebook

One woman said she was contemplating fishing when she was the rodents “running around” and decided not to chuck her line in “near the infested things”. “Yeah we are at Karumba now, it’s ridiculous the amount of rats — you’re fishing and they come out of the water everywhere,” someone else added.

“We saw them dead or alive (but exhausted) in the water and on the shoreline,” another resident commented, revealing that when she returned four days later “they were running on the sand”.

Town's river 'truly alive' with rats

A local commercial fisherman named Fallon told ABC North West Queensland the plague — yet another wave after the 2020/21 outbreak — is “getting out of control”. “There’s a stench along the riverbed. Last night, with the moonlight, the river was truly alive with them,” he said.

A Karumba fishing charter owner agreed the area was “a bit smelly”, telling ABC Radio the rats were swimming out to a sand island, “but once they get out there, they can’t go anywhere and they die, then they wash back up on the beach”.

Dead rats at a Krumba boat ramp and live rats running along the sand on a beach.
The smell has left fishermen running for the hills for the time being. Source: Facebook

Given the sheer number of them, the desperate rodents are likely looking for more food when they jump in the water to cross to more areas, Associate Professor Mathew Crowther of the University of Sydney told Yahoo News Australia.

Another rodent plague sweeps Queensland

The entire state has been battling another rat and mice plague for the past several months, with the wet season and last year’s abundant harvest creating ideal breeding conditions for the population to reach “really high numbers very quickly,” he added.

“Most rodents eat vegetation, seeds, they’ll eat insects and they’ll eat everything at plague proportions,” he said, describing the occurrence of rodent plagues as “an interesting part of the Australian landscape”. “Our animals are adapted because they have these really variable rainfall patterns and animals concurrent with that are quite successful, they can respond quickly.”

Black rats floating on the water's surface.
An expert told Yahoo the rats are likely looking for more food when they jump in the water. Source: Facebook

While residents can try to stop the rats from getting into their homes, there is not much that can be done until nature is done running its course, the professor told Yahoo. “They tend to get really high numbers but then they start crashing because they’ve eaten their food sources out,” he said.

'The ground is crawling with rats'

Some Queenslanders have described the grim scenes on social media, claiming there are “millions and millions of rats on the road” between Cloncurry and Winton.

“Every dead rat on the road had another three or four rats eating it. There was about a metre between dead rats. It was insane,” one man said. “You drive between McKinlay and Winton at night and the ground is crawling with rats. They are that thick, they’re eating their own straight after they’re squished on the road,” another posted.

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