How the Canadian province of Alberta defeated the rats

Rats are a very common pest that survive off human debris. The rodent also drags food intended for humans into its burrow, infecting food and spreading diseases. Human society knows many examples when entire cities perished due to rats during plague epidemics.

For centuries, people have tried in vain to win the war against the rats. In the 1930s in New York, officials tried to rid the city of rats with mustard gas, ten years later, powerful anticoagulants were used against them, then DDT in the 1970s. But nothing helped. Last year, the city allocated $ 32 million for another rat eradication program.

Until now, only a few rat eradication programs have been successful. Of note is the remote South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic, home to some 100, 000 pairs of king penguins. The subantarctic island was declared rat-free in 2018 after seven years of extensive rodent eradication work. Their numbers were reduced with the help of poisonous bait, which was thrown from helicopters. But the most extensive and perhaps the most successful rat eradication program ever conducted on the planet took place in the Canadian state of Alberta.

It had no rat problems until 1950. Wild boreal forests to the north, Rocky Mountains to the west, and the semi-arid High Plains (part of the Great Plains) to the south have held back rodent infestations in Alberta for nearly two centuries. The first rats entered the state from eastern Saskatchewan, and the intruders were discovered by the Department of Health.

Recognizing that the spread of rats could have serious consequences, the Minister of Agriculture immediately created a control buffer zone along the provincial border, and a task force was organized to hunt down and eradicate the rodents. Most people in Alberta have never seen a rat. They were told what rats look like, posters, booklets and brochures were distributed among the population.

In the meantime, rats spread rapidly, and by the fall of 1951, about 30 rats had been found in Alberta, and by 1952, rats were living along the 270 km border. Although most of the animals were 20 km from the border, some rats traveled 60 km inland.

By 1960, rat infestations in Alberta had dropped to 200 per year. In 1963, the province of Saskatchewan initiated their program, which significantly reduced the number of rats in the province of Alberta. In 2002, the province recorded that, for the first time, no rats were found, and from 2002 to 2007, only two rats were found.

In 2014, the pest control program allocated a separate phone number for citizens to call and report their sightings of rats. Every year, citizens report seeing a rat, but most of them turn out to be muskrats, gophers, squirrels, or mice. Confirmed cases are being handled by a team of employees armed with poison pellet shotguns. Alberta is the only jurisdiction in the world that has a dedicated division. His task is to quickly destroy any rat that crosses the Canadian border.

In addition to responding to emergencies, it periodically checks every farm and grain storage in the control area. More than 3, 100 farms are checked annually, and Alberta can tell that there are no rats in the state. This is an impressive achievement considering that the province of Alberta is almost as large as France.