Suspected rat sightings soar as public joins hunt for vermin

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 13, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe


CALGARY — City bylaw officials in Calgary are facing an unusually high number of calls of suspected rat sightings, as public fear rises amid the discovery of a massive rat burrow in southeastern Alberta last week.

But with the destructive pest’s amazing ability to chew through concrete and wire, carry deadly disease, and reproduce at a rate of over 1,000 babies a month, city officials are welcoming the sudden local interest in catching rats.

“We need the public eyes and ears out there — we want people to call so we can get ahead of this,� said Greg Steinraths, acting director of animal and bylaw services. “Rats can do so much damage, so the sooner we can get on this, the better.�

City bylaw officials have fielded about 20 calls in the past two days. All of the 10 calls received Monday were confirmed to be either mice or muskrats. Tuesday’s calls are still being analyzed.

While there have been no further reported sightings of rats in Auburn Bay where a rat was found dead last Friday, the area will continue to be monitored closely.

Public interest is equally high in Medicine Hat, where officials there have fielded 31 calls in the last day, and are also welcoming more.

“Our best defence on this is public awareness,� said Ed Jollymore, manager of solid waste and utility with the city of Medicine Hat.

“Rather than having just a few sets of eyes on this, we now have thousands of eyes. We would much rather have an erroneous sighting than no call at all.�

In Medicine Hat and its surrounding county, rat patrollers increased their ranks this week, bringing in experts from Vermilion River, Wainwright and Bonnyville to sweep the entire city of Medicine Hat, its surrounding county of Cypress Hills as well as other parts of the city landfill which has been confirmed to be infested.

“This is a really big push. We have a number of people here to just get the lay of the land,� said Brandy Calvert, communications officer with the City of Medicine Hat.

“They’re wild, they are feral, and its really unusual to see them. But not only are we seeing them, we’re seeing them in many different sizes, so we know they are reproducing.�

Calvert said up to 20 per cent of the world’s agricultural output is destroyed by rats annually.

“That’s why in Alberta we have to really deal with this right away.

“Can you imagine what would happen to our crops if we didn’t deal with this?�

So far this week, up to 100 vermin have been killed near Medicine Hat’s infested landfill using some 40 bait stations. It’s estimated hundreds of rats are nesting there.

Once the new team has finished its sweep, another 150 new bait stations will be set up today.

Initially there was concern that the highly adaptable pests would learn to avoid the traps. But, so far, they are continuing to be caught and killed.

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

Up to half a dozen rats are discovered in Calgary each year, but most are brought in as pets, which is illegal in Alberta.

Suspected rat sightings can be reported to 311 or the Alberta Rat Patrol’s toll-free number: 403-310-3276.

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