Considering all the threats facing endangered seabirds — extreme weather, pollution, oil spills — I would not guess that “giant mice” would really rate concern. But on Gough Island in the South Atlantic, 10-inch mice have been decimating Atlantic petrel populations by eating the birds’ young. This is especially bad news because Gough Island is the only known place where Atlantic petrels breed — meaning that the young of the entire species are at risk of ROUS attack.
The mice have been killing millions of baby birds every year, including an estimated 1.25 million petrel chicks. That’s bad enough, but the petrels only hatch about 1.6 million chicks annually. That means monster mice are consuming almost 80 percent of each petrel generation. That’s obviously bad for petrel populations, and it’s also bad for Gough Island, which is largely tilled and fertilized by the birds pooping and burrowing all over the place.
The researchers who did this study think the only solution is to thin out the mouse population — the mice, which are just oversized house mice, outnumber petrel chicks on the island and nearly outnumber breeding petrel pairs. Lead researcher Ross Wanless suggests poisoned bait, but I say we get Sarah Palin and her wolf-hunting friends on the case. If their hunting pastime is really just about selflessly controlling exploding wildlife populations, and not about bloodsport and trophies, they should be perfectly happy to shoot some mice from a plane.
Giant Killer Mice Decimating Rare Seabirds, National Geographic.