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The Mouse Invasion of 1926- Taft Oil Museum display - Taft California | by tkksummers
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The Mouse Invasion of 1926- Taft Oil Museum display - Taft California

It has been called the strangest occurrence of its kind in the history of the united states, and the story sounded implausible, but to the people living in the oilfields in the Westside of Kern County in November and December 1926, it was all out war.


The previous winters had been relatively dry ones, and the water which naturally drained into the 30,000 acre Buena Vista Lake bed had been shot off with a dike. In 1926, Miller and Lux had planted 11,000 acres of barley and maize. This turned out to be and ideal breeding place for mice, especially since many of their natural enemies, coyotes and hawks, had been almost exterminated and one pair of mice in a year's time produce 16,146 mice. Suddenly it started to rain. It rained and rained. The underground water level started rising, and out moved the advance guard of mice seeking higher ground.


They swarmed over the headquarters community of the Honolulu Oil Company in the eastern Buena Vista hills, only three mils from the lake bed. They crowded into fence rows, pushed into sheds and warehouses, even foraging their way into walls of homes. Over 50,000 mice were killed there in one day by the use of poisoned barley. Other oil companies assigned crews to dig furrows and sow strychnine wheat around their installations. By December 4, mice had reached Taft, Ford City and Maricopa. 28 mouse traps in a home could not make a dent. Neither did the cats, for once gorged they just watched uninterestedly.


First the oil companies, then the towns, and finally the county joined the fight. The county horticulture commissioner had poisoned grain scattered in trenches that had been dug 9 miles long and stated that there were 100 dead mice to the foot, then the State Agriculture Commission joined the fight. They distributed 1500 pounds of poisoned grain a day.


After a brief respite in late December, mice in great hordes moved out heading not only for Taft, but El Hills and Tupman. On the Bakersfield Taft Highway thousands were ground to death under car wheels making the highway dangerously slippery.


On January 22, 1927, a federal poisoner from the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey arrived to take command. As if to make the story more bizarre, his name was Piper, Stanley Piper, and he set up base camp on Pelican Island of the dry lake bed, and hired 215 men. They were promptly dubbed the "Pied Piper" and the Mouse Marines. On one acre of land they took a tally and the figures indicated the presence of 44 million mice.


Suddenly more than 1000 sea gulls, raven, hawks and other birds of prey appeared. Beset by man and his poison, by birds of prey and by a "contagious mouse disease that flared in the rodents ranks", the mice war could be declared over. Heavy rains continued that winter and spring, the dike broke, and the once dry lake bed was once again a large lake.



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Taken on February 22, 2009