back to article Carnivorous plague mice 'wiping out towns' in US Midwest

Top boffins in the States believe they have unmasked the mystery attacker responsible for repeatedly wiping out towns in the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, slaughtering thousands of inhabitants. The massacres are apparently being carried out by a type of carnivorous mouse, described by scientists as "nasty little beasties …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's what we are

    Fuel for viruses...


    Top of the food chain, not...

    1. Bumpy Cat

      Um ...

      By "we", I presume you mean you and your fellow prairie dogs. Do you have good bandwidth in your burrow-town?

  2. Anonymous Coward


    From wiki-

    "It also stalks its prey in the manner of a cat, sneaking up quietly, and defends its territory by "howling" like a small wolf"

    Give'em an amplifier and new guard pet for small properties?

  3. Lee Dowling Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Epizootics - my new favourite word for the day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Epizootics

      Me too, but it's in the OED nevertheless.

      As is "schlep", my second new word today, defined as "haul or carry (something heavy or awkward)". "The mice then schlep the fleas around to different territories".

      Heavy or awkward fleas, that's what we should worry about.

  4. Rich1

    May I be....

    ...the first to welcome what will surely, eventually be our carnivorous, plague carrying, rodent Overlords....

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Is the mouse saying...

    You mate are dead when you let go

    (Come on people, its got to be a caption competition time.)

    1. Mike Smith

      Or maybe the person holding it is saying

      Thomas! THOMAS! Can you catch this one?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    .. the best strapline for an article .. ever?

    1. James Whale
      Thumb Up


      ...truly awesome; has brightened my morning considerably.

      Bravo El Reg. =)

  7. Ian K
    Thumb Up

    More of this sort of thing!

    Investigative journalism at its finest.

  8. Lottie

    New Simon Cowell vehicle

    "mystery dogsquirrel-slayer annihilation factor"

  9. Avatar of They
    Thumb Up

    required title

    ...but it's soooooo cute. What harm can it be?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: required title

      Cute? THAT? Are you DAFT? It looks like it wants to rip your arm off and beat you to death with it, if only it was big enough.

      P.S. For some real prairie dog related fun, look up "varmit gun" on ewwtoob... these are ultra high powered rifles designed to take out prairie dogs at up to half a mile away, because it's really hard to sneak up to normal gun range. Some of these weapons have 5ft barrels.

      It's fun watching a prairie dog vaporize into a puff of blood and fur!

      1. TimeMaster T


        You have a strange definition of "fun". While I agree the guns used are very cool, killing for sport has never sat very well with me. To each their own I guess, to a point.

        1. skeptical i

          True, but if costs X for each horse or cow that snaps an ankle in a prairie dog hole ...

          ... and the cost of replacing those who have to be put down is Y, I can see how sympathy for the little buggers would erode quite quickly and a "varmit (or varmint?) gun" would seem a wise investment. It'd be best for all concerned if the prairie dogs (and their burrow holes) could stay on their side of the fence and leave the horses' and/or cattle's side alone but I haven't heard of this happening. Of course, in states with open range laws this "solution" might be a bit dicey as would be trying to "manage" such hazards on public lands leased to ranchers.

        2. Allan George Dyer


          It's only sport if the opposing team has the same equipment!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: What harm?

      The mice do no harm at all. It's the fleas... it's ALWAYS the fleas...

      <scratch/> <scratch/>

  10. Joe K


    ..thats put my problems i've been having with Word today into perspective.

    Thanks for that.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boffins again

    It seems there's more of a problem with boffin infestation than there is with mice.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "towns" which can underlie as much as 500 acres and hold as many as 5,000 residents."

    At only 10 (small furry) residents per acre, that sounds very des res.

    1. Tsu Dho Nimh

      More like rodent Suburbia

      "At only 10 (small furry) residents per acre, that sounds very des res."

      That's 10 prairie dogs with several observation mounds, exit tunnels, and several hundred feet of burrow per acre. They have their towns tunneled like the Brits do Gibraltar.

      It's more like suburban sprawl, with areas of densely populated burrows and areas of sparse burrows between them.

  13. Gulfie

    More work for boffins?

    Given that there is clearly still a lively debate going on within the scientific community I vote that we fund a second report - a squakquel if you will.




    OK I'll get my coat.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: More work for boffins?

      >if you will

      I won't.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not really the Midwest

    Nice though it is to use such a convenient shorthand term, the US Midwest is NOT the same as "the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains". It is the area to the North East of the Great Plains, centered around the Great Lakes, although there is some overlap in the region of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

    Check out the two Wikipedia articles and, and you'll soon get the idea. (There are nice outline maps that show clearly how the Great Plains are directly to the West of the Midwest).

    1. frank ly

      It's all relative

      ".. the West of the Midwest."

      Is that the same as the Far West?

      1. I didn't do IT.

        Re: Far West?

        Nope - Far West is Califorinia.

        We got all the kooks out there as we kept telling them West was just a little bit further west...

        Seems our neighbors to the West did the same thing.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It should have been obvious...

    ...when they found fjords in the burrows.

  16. Anonymous John


    Boffin count = 4.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boffinwatch

      Please note we are talking Top Boffins here, not your common or garden boffins.

      Maybe a separate counter for each type (top, bottom, strange, charmed etc.)

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Boffin flavours.

        I can understand top and bottom boffins, even strange and charmed boffins. Where it falls apart is wrapping my mind around up or down boffins.

  17. The elephant in the room

    Judging by the airship in the top left of the photo...

    ...that critter's f**king massive! Clearly it scurried out of a bomb test site in Nevada - mix rodents with radioactivity and this sort of thing is inevitable.

  18. disgruntled yank

    Of mice and maps

    As a sometime Midwesterner, I don't know anybody who counts the Rocky Mountains as part of the Midwest; nor really the plains south of Kansas.

    The grasslands of SE Colorado are a fine place to pick up bubonic plague, though. It used to happen once or twice a year to some unfortunate camper.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    computer model?

    You mean like those computer models predicting lots of aeroplanes would fall out of the sky due to dust in the air? No? These are different? Honest? Carry on then.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    ...ah don't worry, the Yanks are convinced everyone in Birmingham knows their friend in Liverpool, that Monty Pyyyyython is still on TV every night and that we often have tea with the Queen every Sunday.

    So a little geographical cock up is just fine.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      That's why the US is great

      We still have Monty Python on every night (after Dr. Who, of course) - Thank god for PBS & BBCA!

      Now, if you don't mind, I'm off to sing the national anthem of our Neighbors to the Nort at a recital... "Oh, I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK..."

    2. Mike Flugennock

      and, don't forget... we believe that _everybody_ in Liverpool was best buds with John Lennon.

      Yeah, yeah, yeah.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Bio weapons

    are for puffs.

    This is Mans pest control.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Ah, yes...

      ...the good old Rodenator. The spokesman is great -- he can hardly contain his glee when describing the product.

      We have serious gopher problems here on the California central coast (*that* will confuse the Midwest vs. Rocky mountain/Great Plain identify crisis).

      Anyway. We thought about importing some of the carnivorous mice but then worried about what we would do with them after they ate all of the gophers.

      Although the Rodenator is rather expensive at $1,400, several of us are considering pooling together to share the ability for committing mass rodentcide. (Not to be confused with using rodenticides which are nasty chemicals and not near as much fun to use.)

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @P Henry

        "the good old Rodenator. "

        The device that brought the benefits of Fuel Air Explosives to the masses.

        For those who think this level of annoyance is *only* enjoyed by US citizens.

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. JaitcH

    Did you know that Alberta, Canada is RAT FREE (animals only)

    Check out: < >, < >.

    The last one found in Alberta was after provincial inspectors captured a single varmint believed to have entered the province from neighbouring Saskatchewan on a recreational vehicle in 2009.

    Rat control costs the provincial government about $500,000 a year but the effort is said to save tens of millions of dollars in potential crop damage, disease, food contamination and damaged buildings.

    Unfortunately the Progressive Conservative stronghold of 'rats' remains.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


      Rat free, well...except for Calgary. There's still a small nest of the little blighters there that they've been having trouble eliminating. I think it was a few years back, a couple of lab rats got loose and started breeding. They keep thinking they've wiped them all out, but ever couple of months someone spots a new one and the province sends in the pest control once more.

      Personally, I vote for abiogenesis of rodentia due to the concentration of politicos even more bat**** right wing (Alliance) than regular Cowtown PCs. This of course is based on the completely unscientific belief that corruption casts an aura, and that when too many such auras overlap the point of confluence causes the normal laws of of our reality to collapse. From this we get abiogenic generation of rodentia, gates into hell, Adobe Reader vulnerabilities and so forth.

      Why yes, that is my coat…

      1. Mike Flugennock


        "Rat free, well...except for Calgary. There's still a small nest of the little blighters there that they've been having trouble eliminating. I think it was a few years back, a couple of lab rats got loose and started breeding..."

        Theyyyy're Pinky And The Brain -- YES,

        Pinky And The Brain...

        Alright, alright, I'm gone.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are Register articles written so as to include arcane Brittish words and phrases?

    What exactly is a boffin? And is it a requirement that all stories put out by the register include the use of boffin?

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Why are Register articles written so as to include arcane Brittish words and phrases?

      Yes. Next question.

    2. JimC

      >arcane Brit Words

      It is, after all a Pom site...

      Boffin is hardly arcane, except maybe to seppos.

      It means, roughly, highly competent scientist or engineer whose work may not be readily understandable by the general public, maybe with a slight aura of unworldliness. Much more positive than say geek.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        What are seppos?

        This Pom/Limey/Sassenach wishes to know.

        1. Martin 71 Silver badge

          Probably not the first to reply but

          Seppo = Septic = septic tank = Yank = Merkin :-)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Probably not the first to reply but

            Thanks :-)

      2. Mike Flugennock

        Thanks for the info!

        Still, it took me a long time to figure out terms like "punter" and "boffin" in El Reg articles; I finally learned/learnt them by observing the context... though, honestly, I'm still not sure about "punter".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Thanks for the info!

          In the UK, a punter is, literally, a gambler - not someone who kicks an American football. Taking a punt means placing a bet.

          But in slang - and every day use - it means "customer".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      two great nations, divided by a common language

      Just don't confuse boffin with boffing.

      1. frank ly

        re. boffing

        ...or shagging with shagging.

    4. Mike Flugennock

      Why, because...

      ...if they didn't write them that way, it wouldn't be proper English.

      A cold one for the Brits, for teaching us Yanks way cooler slang.

  25. F111F

    Self-fufilling Prophecy?

    "So we decided to write a computer model to determine if the number of mice being trapped is consistent with driving these plague epizootics."

    Anybody else read this as: "so we decided to write a computer model that proves the number of mice being trapped is consistent with driving these plaque epizootics."?

    1. Tom 13

      No, I didn't assume these guys are as corrupt as the ones at Hadley.

      It is entirely possible to in an ethically responsible manner write a computer model for the interactions amongst the various participants including their variation in numbers to see if there exists a configuration in which the mass kill event occurs. I will confess I didn't follow the link to the article to see if they are in fact proceeding in a scientific and ethical fashion, which is: have they published the raw data, the model, and provided access to the source code for their computer model? If yes, then it is solid science. If no, then you are correct to question the conclusions.

  26. IR

    The headline

    I was expecting some kind of James Herbert dystopia

  27. thomas k.

    re: it's all relative

    Far West - A region of the United States originally comprising all territories west of the Mississippi River. It is now generally restricted to the area west of the Great Plains.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    He said "schlep"!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: heheh

      It's OK, it's not like he said "schtoop"!

      1. skeptical i

        or 'schmuck'


  29. Charlie van Becelaere
    Thumb Up

    Post your own message

    "a fearsome campaign on of carno-murine bioweapon genocide"

    One of the finest turns of phrase in this otherwise dreary Wednesday.

    Thanks, much.

  30. JShel

    That's all fine and well, but...

    Can they figure out why they commit suicide under cars?

    Drove out Interstate 80 in Neb/Col area, and there were many stretches of road 200-400 feet with literally hundreds of these guys turned to street pizza - a little slick to go over, BTW. Seemed strange, then on the way back, the same thing. But at one of these graveyards I see a little fella standing up on the shoulder, no cars in sight in front or behind, yet he times it perfectly to run under my wheels!

    Made a quick backstory in my head though - he came upon the bodies if his slaughtered kin, and decided life was not worth living without them, and joined them when the next car came by...

    1. I didn't do IT.

      Re: Gopher Suicide Hotline, can I help you?

      Is it possible he was bubonically infected, and simply wanted the Kevorkian way out?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boffin latest

    Arrests were made after an argument over stolen cake led to a fight among scientists studying sea birds on an Arctic island, in a muffin stuffing Baffin puffin boffin biffing cuffing.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Boffin overload

    Although I love Lewis's articles, that word is getting a bit of overuse.

    Could we get him a thesaurus please?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


      Welcome to The Register, hope you enjoy your stay at this British website.

    2. Captain Thyratron

      Hey, now.

      Your remark is an affront to boffinry worldwide.

  33. Zygyk

    The Squirrel Revolution

    Not the first account of little rodents fighting back. As prophetic as a B-grade monster movie: check it out. hehehe:

  34. Passing Through
    Thumb Up


    What a marvelous invention! this must have lots of other possible uses, for example clearing aphids from greenhouses, unblocking drains, testing buildings for structural integrity, opening the car boot in case of lost keys, etc.

  35. Passing Through

    Rodenator 11

    Seriously though, how does the user determine that the rodent burrow does not pass under the point that the user is standing on?

    Not good for use in the vicinity of grain stores or fertilizer either.

  36. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    More like this!

    Good science reporting. <3

  37. skeptical i

    Best laid plans of mice.

    "And men."


    "It's 'best laid plans of mice and men.' "

    "Oh. No, I don't think men had much to do with it."

  38. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Does not answer the *real* question

    Which tastes better and what are the best herbs and spices to fry them with.

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