CCA, Ag Fieldman
I get the strangest looks from people when I tell them that I am a member of Alberta’s Rat Patrol.
“But, there are no Rats in Alberta!” Doing a heck of a job, aren’t I? Actually, the reason Alberta can brag to the world that our produce contains no Rat feces or urine is that in 1950, Alberta Agriculture decided to stop Rats from moving further west from Saskatchewan. It was a pivotal point in Alberta’s history. A Rat Control Zone (RCZ) was established from the Montana border to about Cold Lake 18 miles (three townships) wide where Pest Control Officers (PCO) still inspect, kill rats remove habitat throughout the year. Being vigilant is obviously still required as the Rats continue to try and infest our province. The RCZ is only required on the lower half of our eastern border as the inhospitable and sparsely populated border with Montana, the forested area north of Cold Lake and the Rocky Mountains to the West mean the Rats can only come in on foot through the RCZ.
However! The reason we need to all be on the lookout, even way up in the Northern interior of the province, is that Rats can also move in via our ever more mobile society. Industrial, oilfield and agricultural equipment, hay, rail cars and vehicles could all be harbouring a rat. We all need to be on the lookout and if a Rat is seen, it needs to be destroyed immediately. A bred female, safe from predation could conceivably produce 15,000 rats in one year. Rats are estimated to destroy up to one-fifth of all the world’s crops each year. They spread disease and parasites and are still spreading the infamous Black Plague (there are known deaths in the US every year).
It is illegal to harbour any Rattus species in Alberta without a permit. That includes white rats which are sometimes kept as pets. Only research institutes such as universities and hospitals can keep them in approved quarters with a permit issued by the Minister of Agriculture. All Rattus species are classed as pests under the Agricultural Pests Act of Alberta, and as such all landowners or occupants in Alberta are bound by the Act to take active measures to destroy them, and to destroy their habitat. Part of my duty as an Inspector under the Agricultural Pests Act is to educate and ensure our Province stays Rat free, so if you believe you have seen a Rat, other than a Wood (Pack) Rat or Muskrat, call me – I will investigate and can set traps, poison or call in the troops if that’s what is needed. As I am writing this on Aug. 18, I do have a couple traps out in the Village of Girouxville. It’s unlikely that what was reported is a Norway rat, but we set the traps out to try and catch what was seen to be absolutely certain.
In the time that I have been here at the M.D. of Smoky River (nine years), I have responded to a black rat (frozen dead) which likely came in with grain cars to Girouxville. I have investigated musk rats and groundhogs and deer mice. A travel trailer had to be fumigated in the County of Grande Prairie because a rat came in with it from B.C. Pet rats have been confiscated many times, rats have been found and killed arriving by plane and rail, and I can’t see why bales of hay or equipment moving inter-provincially couldn’t bring a rat in either. We need to be on a constant lookout
The reason I wanted to get this article in now is that Rats are pretty much bound to humanity, as the weather turns colder any Rats that may be present will be searching out food and a place to live, keep an eye out around the granaries, old sheds and bales. Rats scamper and jump when they move, as opposed to a Muskrat which ambles along. Rats also tend to stay hidden during the day, you’ll most likely only see one if it was uncovered suddenly. If you think you’ve seen a rat or rat sign, give me a call at (780) 837-2221, ext. 115, or on my cell at (780) 837-0043. I can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s worth investigating, to ensure we never let them get established in Alberta.