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Rats return to Alberta; hunt is on

There were 70 dead rats in Medicine Hat, Alta., as of Aug. 20, and the search to find and obliterate the rodents continues in the province that has prided itself on being “rat-free” since the 1950s.

News of the infestation at the regional landfill, on the outskirts of Medicine Hat, was released last week and since then Alberta Agriculture personnel, Cypress County fieldmen and city workers have been using poisoned bait, water and traps to kill the vermin.

Support is being received from other nearby municipalities as well as from the municipal districts of Bonnyville, Wainwright and Vermilion River, said Medicine Hat waste manager Ed Jollymore.

He said the number of rats killed so far shows the infestation is much larger than anticipated.

“We don’t want to be the source of other nests,” he said, so eradication efforts and daily inspections continue.

One female rat can produce thousands of offspring in one year, said Jollymore. Spread of the rodents is a concern for farmers because of damage they can do to grain stocks, granaries, wiring and insulation.

They also carry disease.

Control efforts are limited to “quiet” approaches so the rats do not become stressed and disperse, Jollymore said. “The first feeling would be, ‘‘let’s go in and blast that rat or we’ll burn him out or we’ll crush him,’ and if you knew where that nest was, that would be a good way to do it.

“But the problem is … you don’t know where that burrow actually goes. Right now we’re trying to keep it as quiet, as comfortable, with the rats as well fed and watered as we can with poisoned bait.”

Source of the infestation is un-known.

Rats can be confused with muskrats and gophers at first sight. Nevertheless, anyone who thinks they’ve seen a rat is advised to call 310-FARM (3276) to report it.

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