Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)

OPINION: 2020 marked 70 years of Alberta’s Rat Control Program

Nobody likes a rat

By Devin Dreeshen

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

If you’ve ever watched a mafia movie, you’ve seen a character or two mention how nobody likes a “rat” – a crook who tells on other crooks. In Alberta, we take it a bit more literally – we mean the rodents and take every measure possible to make sure they know it and don’t make a home here.

This year marks 70 years of Alberta’s Rat Control Program. Started in 1950, the program ensures Albertans are safe from the environmental and economic destruction rats cause (chewing through crops, food storage and property) and the diseases they carry with them (like hantavirus).

We’re famously and proudly “rat-free,” one of the few jurisdictions in the world that can make that claim. It means we don’t allow rats to establish a permanent population within our borders. If rats are found in Alberta, they are immediately dealt with through proven control methods.

Do your part. Report a rat.

We owe our rat-free status not only to the hard work and dedication of Agriculture and Forestry’s rat control staff, but also the vigilance of farmers, municipalities and counties.

Early on, Alberta established a Rat Control Zone (RCZ) – a 29 km wide swath of land running along our eastern border from Cold Lake in the north to the Montana border in the south. The 7 municipalities in the zone bear the most responsibility for rat control, and we support them through funding and supplies.

Our Rat Control Program is a made-in-Alberta success story to a worldwide problem, a model for other provinces, states and countries facing the threat of these destructive pests.

Rat control by the numbers

In 2019, Alberta’s rat control team launched 230 investigations, finding and eliminating six confirmed infestations – five in the RCZ and one in an urban setting. Nine solo rats were found in urban settings – these were most likely “hitchhikers” who jumped off a recreation vehicle or transport truck that travelled from outside Alberta.

So far in 2020, they’ve conducted 411 Investigations, with eight confirmed infestations – three in the RCZ and five in towns or cities. They’ve also found 16 hitchhikers.

Alberta has plenty of rodents often mistaken for rats. To help recognize rats, visit our “Identifying rats” page.