It's a trap: Effective methods for monitoring house mouse populations in grain-growing regions of south-eastern Australia

Peter R. Brown, Steve Henry, Roger P. Pech, Jennyffer Cruz, Lyn A. Hinds, Nikki Van De Weyer, Peter Caley, Wendy A. Ruscoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Wild house mice cause substantial economic damage to grain crops in Australia, particularly during mouse plagues. Populations were monitored to detect changes in abundance, with data from surveys used in models to forecast likely mouse outbreaks. However, it is not always feasible to use live-trapping (the 'gold standard') for assessing mouse abundance at a large number of monitoring sites spread across south-eastern Australia. A range of alternative methods was tried to assist the grains industry with strategic decisions to reduce crop damage. Aims: The aim of this work was to determine which survey methods could provide useful and effective indexes of mouse abundance across a large area. Methods: Monitoring of mouse populations was conducted at representative grain farms by using (1) live-trapping at long-term 'benchmark' sites (n = 2), and (2) mouse chew cards and active burrow counts at 'rapid-assessment' sites (n = 44 farms across 5 regions). Monitoring was conducted for 22 monitoring sessions over 7.5 years through low, medium and high mouse abundance conditions. Key results: Live-trapping provided the most useful, but most resource-intensive, information. There were strong relationships between the index of mouse abundance from live-trapping with mouse chew cards and active burrow counts at a local (explaining 63% and 71% of variation respectively) and regional (explaining 71% and 81% of variation respectively) scales. The same quantitative relationship held between the mouse chew cards and trapping regardless of season and year. However, the relationship between active burrow counts and trapping was best in winter and autumn seasons. There was a strong relationship between mouse abundance from live-trapping and active burrows across 1 ha grids (R2 = 0.88). We determined there were 1.3 ± 0.2 (mean ± s.e.) mice per active burrow. Conclusions: Live-trapping supplemented with data from chew cards and active burrows remains sufficient to monitor a wide range of sites to show regional trends. Implications: It is likely that live-trapping will need to be used for the foreseeable future to provide useful parameters such as breeding condition and population abundance that are required for the forecast models. Supplementary monitoring at rapid-assessment sites (using chew cards in all seasons and active burrow counts particularly in autumn and winter), that can be collected easily without the need for animal handling, will provide additional indications of region-specific changes in mouse abundance and activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-359
Number of pages13
JournalWildlife Research
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'It's a trap: Effective methods for monitoring house mouse populations in grain-growing regions of south-eastern Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this