This province has been rat free since 1950 and here's why

Aug 9 2022, 7:45 pm

If you ever find yourself in the lovely province of Alberta, you are practically guaranteed to not spot something most people despise — a rat.

In fact, a rat population hasn’t been a thing in the province since the 1950s, so a long, long time.

So, why the lack of rats you ask? It all changed in 1950 when the provincial government set up a rat-control program. That was also the same year that rats were first reported on the eastern edge of the province, trying to move their way in after sweeping through Saskatchewan.

At the time, the biggest fear of rats in the province was the spread of plague by the rodents, so the Alberta government decided to halt, or at least slow, the spread of rats to the west.

By the fall of 1951, 30 rat infestations had been confirmed along 180 km of Alberta’s eastern border, and in 1952, rats were active along 270 km of border, according to the province.

Most infestations were within 10 to 20 km of the border, so from June 1952 to July 1953 nearly 70 TONS of arsenic trioxide tracking powder was used to treat 8,000 buildings across eastern Alberta.

It turned out to be effective. With most infestations being confined to areas within 10 to 20 km of the border, Alberta Agriculture was given the time to develop a rat-control program. After 1959, the number of infestations dropped dramatically.

Alberta rats

Rat awareness poster from the 1950s (Government of Alberta)

The government also developed some intense ads to inform Albertans of rats, like the one above highlighting that “he’s a menace,” “you can’t ignore the rat,” and “kill him!”

Today hundreds of suspected infestations are reported each year by concerned citizens, but most sightings turn out to be muskrats, pocket gophers, ground squirrels, bushy-tailed woodrats, or mice. Phew!

The province takes the issue of rats so seriously that owning a pet rat is illegal in Alberta. There is even a hotline to call if you ever think you saw a rat — 310-FARM — or an official government email, fittingly titled [email protected].

To help prevent rats in Alberta, it’s neighbour to the east, Saskatchewan, also operates a provincial rat-control program, and the two provinces collaborate by sharing information and resources.

Some municipal employees from Alberta have worked on rat control in Saskatchewan to reduce rat migration into Alberta.

If and when a rat is found in Alberta, it usually receives immense press coverage. Imagine that, Vancouver or Toronto.

The province is considered to be the largest jurisdiction in the world to rid itself of the rodent. Simply put, Albertans don’t like rats.

Laine MitchellLaine Mitchell

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