Dead rat found in Calgary after Medicine Hat infestation

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Sep 1, 2012 in Rat News | Subscribe

Alberta’s war against rats is ramping up as a dead rodent was discovered in a southeast Calgary backyard, while patrollers from Bonnyville and Wainwright are being drafted to battle Medicine Hat’s infested landfill.

Calgary animal services and bylaw say it’s doubtful that the small brown Norway rat found in Auburn Bay on Friday made its way from Medicine Hat’s landfill, which is teeming with rodents.

Due to its size, it was likely someone’s pet, they say.

Homeowner Don Evanson says his dog found the dead rodent in the suburbs days ago.

“I thought it was a gopher,� said Evanson.

But after news that more than 60 rats in a significant colony have been killed at Medicine Hat’s landfill, the man took another look at the decomposing, fly-ridden carcass and it became clear.

“It was a rat,� he said.

It is the sixth rat found in the city this year. In the spring, four pet rats were reported and one was found dead in a truck, officials say.

The rat’s unsettling presence is raising concerns, says Evanson.

“I don’t know what to think of it. Is it a pet or isn’t it?� he said.

“My concern was I had contact with it, my dog had contact with it. Is it diseased, or is it clean? Should I be concerned about it?�

Pest control officers searched the area looking for evidence of more rats, but nothing else was reported.

“The area will be monitored on an ongoing basis until bylaw officers are satisfied there are no more rats associated with this incident,� said Greg Steinraths, acting director of the city’s Animal and Bylaw Services.

“It is near a major thoroughfare, so it could have possibly come off a truck,� he said.

Up to half a dozen rats are discovered in Calgary each year. The majority are pets, which are forbidden in Alberta.

Meanwhile, the war on the Medicine Hat colony continues.

Patrollers have killed more than 60 rats, but others likely crawled back into the burrow and died from poisoned bait traps, he said. Hundreds of rats are estimated to be nesting in the dump.

“Whenever we come across the known nests we respond aggressively. We know it was a robust colony,� said Ed Jollymore, Medicine Hat’s waste manager.

“We want to keep the rats in the nest. It’s better to know where they are. If they start seeing their kin dying they might get stressed and disperse.�

Rat patrollers are being recruited to join the fight from Wainwright and Bonnyville.

“It really helps if we have these people who understand the behaviour of rats better than we do.�

Officials are still scratching their heads wondering how the colony formed. Sightings of single rats began last spring.

“We don’t know the source. There are thousands of vehicles travelling through from B.C. and Saskatchewan, there’s RVs, trains coming through. They could hop on and off. We don’t know if these guys were brought in and dropped off as waste or walked across the Prairie and set up house,� said Jollymore.

Infrared cameras and poisoned bait traps surround the landfill and neighbouring farms.

“We will be at it as long as we need to be. The monitoring program is ongoing and it will never stop.�

Alberta has been following a rat eradication program since the 1950s.

The province, which spends $350,000 a year on its rat-control program, has 11 rat inspectors who patrol the border with Saskatchewan, aiming to prevent the vermin from destroying crops.

Six counties and municipal districts participate in the patrol of the rat-control zone, which is 30 kilometres wide and stretches 390 kilometres from the Montana border to Cold Lake.

Despite the efforts, rodents carried by shipping containers on airplanes, trucks and trains, and some bought by pet owners as snake food, show up in Alberta frequently, officials say.

Alberta and Antarctica claim to be rat-free.

Medicine Hat is 300 km southeast of Calgary.

All suspected rat sightings should be reported to 3-1-1 or the Alberta Rat Patrol’s toll-free number: 403-310-3276.

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