Since the 1950's Alberta has boasted that is is "rat free" giving comfort to those who may be rodent phobic and protecting the lucrative grain industry. But now a colony of rats has been found in Medicine Hat, that could challenge the claim.
Exterminators have killed 19 rats in and around the landfill site, in the Southeastern Alberta city, this summer and Provincial agricultural inspector Rob Pulyk tells the Medicine Hat News, that another 21 dead rats were found on Wednesday bringing the total to 40 since the rat colony was discovered. The province's Minister of Agriculture, Verlyn Olson is taking it very seriously. He's offered provincial help to hunt down the rodents, telling the CBC, “This is certainly not the first time a rat has been spotted in Alberta, and it won't be the last time.”
CBC says an aggressive rat control program has kept the rodents out of Alberta for decades, despite the occasional incident. Olson, says, “It would be naive to think that no rat ever set foot in Alberta. Rats don't respect provincial borders. But the key is as soon as we find evidence we act very quickly and very aggressively."
The National Post says the rat patrol will now set baited-traps and use infrared cameras at the dump to make sure none of the rats remain. They will even move bull snakes that are found in the city, to the landfill site to help control the problem.
Medicine Hat News says government officials say this is not a laughing matter and Olson is calling this a called "a significant event" for the province. The minister estimates that rats cause about $200 billion worth of crop damage worldwide adding, "Alberta is one of the very few jurisdictions in the world that can say we don't suffer from those damages."
Jason Storch a county agricultural field-man says, "The only good rat is a dead rat." He says this case is different from those in the past, since it isn't just a few rats found in a hay bale or grain bin.
The CBC reports that a pair of reproductive rats could create a colony of 15,000 rodents within a single year.