Huge rat plague causing chaos in several Outback Queensland areas

Published: November 27, 2023

The idyllic fishing village of Karumba in Queensland’s Gulf country is the latest grey nomad hotspot to be overrun by a massive plague of rats. Images posted on social media show tens of thousands of dead rats on the edge of boat ramps, floating in the water, and on the ground at scenic lookouts.

Those rodents that are still alive have apparently been scurrying in big numbers into garden sheds and homes. Karumba has a population of just 500.

Following an extended wet period, the rat plague is already affecting many other Outback Queensland towns including Richmond, Cloncurry, Winton and Julia Creek.

Fortunately, the vast majority of grey nomads have already moved further south and so are avoiding what could be quite an unpleasant experience.

The Chief Executive Officer of Richmond Shire Council, Peter Bennett, told the Grey Nomads that the rats hadn’t been as bad in town as they are on the cattle properties to the south of the Flinders Highway.

“I haven’t heard of too many tourists impacted as it has been really warm in Richmond for the last three months and the tourists leave once the temperature gets above 35 normally,” he said. “In town, Council has been putting rat baits in our stormwater drains and under council infrastructure.”

He said, last month alone, the council had put out over 2,000 baits, and will continue to do so until the rat plague has finished.

“If you take a torch out at night on a cattle property you will see hundreds on rats about and, if you driving the road at night, you will see a rat cross the road every 20 seconds or so,” he said. “There isn’t much people can do to end the plague, it is too far and widespread … we just have to hope Mother Nature steps in and fixes the problem.”

There have also been rat dramas a little further south in Winton, but Winton Roadhouse Cabins & Caravan Park says it has not had issues to date.

“We haven’t had any problems with the rat plague here in town,” said a spokesperson for the van park. “I think it is mainly outside of town on the properties they are affecting the most.”

In Normanton, the Carpentaria Shire Council has said it is settling in for a long battle with the rodents, with a lot more said to be coming up from western and southern Queensland.

Veteran traveller Cynthia Anderson, currently safely on the NSW Mid North Coast, says she hopes the problem is well and truly sorted before she heads north again next year.

“I remember being camped on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula many years ago when we had mice running around everywhere and that was bad enough for me,” she said. “I’m not sure I could handle rats!”

  • What’s the worst insect or animal plague you’ve run into on your travels? Comment below.

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Earlier this year I stayed for a month at Mallacoota Foreshore Holiday Park. There were rats eating the wiring in campers vehicles overnight. A few cars had to be towed away. The local auto electrician would have been busy. I placed baits in my engine bay, the rats munched on them.

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