Rats in rat-free Alberta? Province confirms 3 found in Calgary in 2018

A young rat was found in a Calgary neighbourhood Thursday morning and experts say it's the third found so far this year. But the province says Alberta is still rat-free. Lauren Pullen explains why.

If you think “rat-free Alberta” means none of the rodents can be found in the province, well, that’s not entirely true.

A young rat was found in the suburb of Hillhurst just outside downtown Calgary Thursday morning.

Becky Rock’s son made the find near a garden on the side of their home.

“I think Alberta’s claim to be rat-free ran through my head. I was a little shocked, at least,” Rock said.

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“Our cats have given us at least one or two treasures of the gift of a dead mouse on occasion [but] coming across a rat, I never would have expected that.”

READ MORE: Meet Ratty McRatface: Alberta town’s resident rodent

This is the third rat found in Calgary in 2018, according to the city. Another four were also found that were being kept as pets.

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But the province says Alberta is still rat-free, justifying that claim by saying the rodents don’t mate or repopulate here.

“We’ve never totally been rat-free but we don’t have a breeding population. We never have,” provincial rat and pest specialist Phil Merrill said.

Merrill says there have been small infestations in the past and on average about a dozen rats are found in Alberta every year.

“Things have really died down since I started in 1971,” Merrill said. “We used to have 40 to 50 every year.”

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Merrill credits the increase in rat patrol programs in Saskatchewan for the decline.

He said most rats hitch a ride on recreational vehicles from neighbouring provinces. They’re usually younger rodents curiously looking for a new place to live — perhaps a new adventure.

Merrill says they don’t usually last long in different environments though, which is why most of the rats they find are already dead.

If you do spot what you think is a rat you’re asked to contact the province’s rat and pest control program at 310-RATS, or if you live in Calgary, you can also call local bylaw officers at 311.

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That’s what Rock did and she says city crews were there pretty quickly to take the rodent away.

“I’m creeped out by it because then I start to wonder, if there’s one, are there more? And where are they?” Rock said.

“Now I’m on this determined path to clean out everything and look for any signs of infestation.”

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