Thursday, 06 February 2014 08:48

Alberta maintains its rat-free status for another year

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Phil Merrill, a provincial rat and pest specialist, spoke about rats at the provincial Agricultural Service Board conference in Medicine Hat at the end of January. Phil Merrill, a provincial rat and pest specialist, spoke about rats at the provincial Agricultural Service Board conference in Medicine Hat at the end of January. Photo by Rose Sanchez

Alberta has maintained its rat-free status with no rat infestations reported in 2013. That was the message from Phil Merrill, an Alberta rat and pests specialist at the 2014 provincial Agricultural Service Board conference held in Medicine Hat Jan. 27-30.


“We believe the Medicine Hat rat infestation has been cleaned up,” he added, appropriately since he was speaking in the gas city.
An infestation is considered to be confirmation of more than two rats in one location. In 2013 there were no infestations in the province. That is the first year that has happened since 2005. There were six confirmed rats found in Cypress County — two in Medicine Hat, two at the landfill and two in the county. Four rats were confirmed throughout the rest of the province.
“We average about a dozen single rats coming into the province. It seems the harder we look for them the more we find,” said Merrill.
Alberta Agriculture has made rats a priority.
“The Medicine Hat infestation (in mid 2012) strengthened our resolve to make sure we don’t have rats in the province.”
Because of the infestation in Medicine Hat, where hundreds of rats were found to be living at the landfill, a new provincial rat policy has been created. It states which department is responsible for what action.
“But policy doesn’t go far enough,” pointed out Merrill, adding a draft rat manual is being written which lists step by step the procedures to be taken when handling rat sightings. It will also include contact information and list control materials.
“We’re hoping to have that out soon.”
A new pest insider newsletter is being emailed to agricultural fieldmen throughout the province on a quarterly basis.
Merrill provided some history about rats to the audience, including the fact the Norway rat is one of 12 species of rattus and the only one able to inhabit the prairies. The provincial rat control strategy is a way to help prevent rats from invading Alberta from Saskatchewan. Every building and potential rat habitat within six miles of the Saskatchewan/ Alberta border from Cold Lake south to Montana is inspected twice a year. Buildings within 12 miles of the border are checked once a year and in some areas buildings up to 18 miles from the border are inspected.
Agricultural fieldmen are relied upon to check out reports of possible rat sightings, and Albertans are asked to report possible sightings.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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