CALGARY — Alberta’s much-publicized status as a rat-free province may be about to take a hit.
The province’s rat patrol is stepping into high gear to ward of an infestation of the rodents in a northeast Calgary neighbourhood after a Norway rat was recently captured.
An infestation of the creatures in Swift Current, Sask., has prompted city council there to come up with a rat catching plan and prompted health officials earlier this month to issue a public health warning.
There were even reports of people being bitten while they slept.
There are no firm theories on why dozens of rats have come into the community.
The Calgary critter, which health officials have warned can carry disease and damage crops and buildings, was caught and euthanized after a resident called animal services last Thursday, said Calgary bylaw spokesman, Bill Bruce.
Four rat burrows have been spotted and it’s believed there could be up to five of the animals scurrying throughout the northeast neighbourhood, Bruce said Saturday.
He refused to reveal which neighbourhood the burrows have been found in.
“Four or five, if they’re left alone, will soon be four or five thousand,” Bruce said.
A female rat can become pregnant 45 days after birth and they breed often.
“We take this very seriously because we know they can come in on shipments,” he said. “There are no rats entrenched in Alberta and we want to keep it that way.”
Since 1950, Alberta has had a rural Norway rat control program which directs landowners to kill the animals — a strategy that supposedly kept the province rat-free.
The Alberta government even has an official rat patrol program to ensure the creatures don’t get a solid pawhold in the province.
Pet rats of any variety are not permitted in the province.
Bruce said his department receives about 125 rat complaints each year, with about 20 of them turning out to be actual rat sightings.
Often, he said people mistake muskrats, mice and squirrels for rats, he said.