Rats are pretty much everywhere, but thanks to the hard work of Alberta’s Rat Patrol, you will not find a rat in this Canadian province. Learn more about how Alberta managed to stay Rat Free.
Meet the Norway Rat
Norway rats (also called brown rats – although not all are brown) are not native to North America, they were introduced by sneaking on ships and arrived from Europe around 1775. They spend some years making their populations stronger in eastern Canada, and the United States, and gradually spread westward.
Norway rats are rather unique in that they cannot survive without humans in areas where the temperatures get below freezing. They need human buildings and heat to survive the winters, as such, they are only found in cities, towns, and farms.
The First Rats Come to Alberta
Rats didn’t reach Saskatchewan until the 1920s. The first rat found in Alberta was spotted in the summer of 1950 along Alberta’s southeast border, but Alberta was ready, and thus began the fight to keep the province rat-free, led by the Department of Agriculture.
Back then few Albertans even knew what a Rat looked like. In an emergency like the course of action 2000 posters, and 1,500 pamphlets were distributed to grain elevators, railway stations, schools, and post offices. This was called “Rat Control in Alberta, 1951”, and it instructed people to rat-proof their buildings and feed storage.
You Can’t Ignore the Rat
Every municipality in Alberta was assigned a pest control inspector, and various poisons were put to test to control these invasive animals, including a new poison at that time “warfarin”, an anticoagulant.
By late 1952 a few rats had penetrated almost to Medicine Hat (in southeast Alberta). Most likely these rats were spreading via trains. Drastic measures were taken including the use of arsenic tracking powder. Unfortunately, this was not done properly and some pets and livestock were poisoned as a result.
Methods of control eventually switched more in favour of Warfarin, which was set as bait mixed with rolled oats and icing sugar. Colored confetti was added to the rolled oats in 1965 to enable farmers not to confuse the poison with rolled oats as fed to livestock.
Regular patrols check farms along the Alberta – Saskatchewan border. Farmers in the area are asked to keep baits around feed storage areas. Garbage is contained, buried, or burned, regularly to eliminate easy feeding areas for rats.
Not Even Pet Rats
Alberta’s rat-free status has come into question a couple of times, usually when people have released pet rats, as happened in Calgary at one time. When such a thing happens it makes the news!
To keep its rat-free status, pet rats (domesticated forms of Norway Rats) are not allowed in Alberta. Zoos, Hospitals, Research Labs, and Universities within the province are the only places rats can be kept, and of course, these are often “white rats”, a strain of Norway Rat typically kept for research. Keeping pet rats illegally can result in high fines or even jail time!
If you are a Rat planning a Vacation in Alberta, Think Again
Alberta is relatively fortunate as it has the Rocky Mountain range on the west, forest to the north, and sparse habitation, and grasslands to the south. Remember that the Norway rat needs human dwellings to survive the winters here, even along the southern border to the United States where winters are relatively warmer than in the north. There are very few homes along the southern border and those that are there regularly check for signs of rats.
Control of rats on the eastern border is easy because cities and farmers along the border unite to control infestations as soon as they occur.
Rats are a problem because not only do they eat food supplies, they defecate in them and spread diseases including hepatitis. Norway rats carried the fleas that spread the plague through Europe and Asia killing millions of people. They are destructive animals, eating through walls, insulation, and even supporting structures of buildings. Rats cost other areas millions of dollars.
Alberta continues to maintain its high standards of being on guard against this menace. Rats who enter are quickly reported and the Rat Patrol launches in to exterminate them!
Even the province to the east, Saskatchewan is making headway in controlling rats there. As such rats are well-advised to stay clear of the Alberta border and its famous Rat Patrol (which if you ask, is an Albertan).
*Rat Photos from Wikimedia commons