Infestation of mice taking over Arthur's Pass a 'plague of biblical proportions' - DOC

An infestation of mice has taken over a South Island alpine town in what has been described by the Department of Conservation as a "plague of biblical proportions."

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The Department of Conservation has fears for what the mice will do to native wildlife. Source: 1 NEWS

Millions of mice have been running amok in Arthur's Pass, and there are now fears for what it will mean for wildlife.

Local man John Charles, who has lived in Arthur's Pass for 60 years, said even he can't believe the plague of mice infesting the town.

There's dozens of them. They just keep coming," he said. 

He's caught 500 of the rodents since August, describing them as "cannibals."

"The thing at the moment, the numbers are so great, the mice are starting to eat each other."

The masses of mice are speed-breeding due to the beech tree mega mast. It has caused phenomenal seed production, resulting in a forest floor full of food.

"The volume of mice they're catching in their homes and around their homes is just unprecedented," DOC's Kingsley Timpson said.  "Biblical proportions. It's mice in excess of a hundred mice in a bucket overnight."

The proliferation of mice in Arthur's Pass has already led to a worrying increase in other pest numbers in the area. Last winter, the local wildlife trust caught 230 rats in their traps, up from 17 last year.

"That encourages other predators, such as stoats, who'll feed on the mice and increase as well, and that's a serious risk to our manu, our native birds," DOC senior ranger for North Canterbury district, Emma Hunt, said.

A 1080 ban close to the village means traps are the best method for catching the mice.

"The traps … become clogged overnight. The rats will just fill up the traps and you just can't service them quick enough," Mr Timpson said.

It's hoped a heavy rain or cold snap might help curtail mice numbers before they are expected to peak in January.