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May 18, 2007 5:59 PM   Subscribe

The only rat-free zones in the world are the Arctic, the Antarctic, some especially isolated islands, and the province of Alberta in Canada. Alberta is unusual in that rat infestation was prevented by deliberate government action. The first rat did not reach Alberta until 1950, and in 1951 the province launched an extremely aggressive rat-control program that included shooting and poisoning rats, and bulldozing, burning down, and blowing up rat-infested buildings. By 1960 the number of rat infestations in Alberta had dropped below 200 per year and has remained low ever since. We clubbed them with brooms and 2x4s, got most of them that way
posted by KokuRyu (54 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
You're the dirty brother who killed my rat!
posted by eriko at 6:03 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh wacking day! Oh hallowed [rat] skull cracking day!
posted by Justinian at 6:10 PM on May 18, 2007


"These rats did not have what the experts call wild instincts. They were raised domestically and have just recently been let go in the wild. So that leads us to believe that someone has put them there," said Bill Bruce, manager of bylaw services.

Oh Saskatchewan, what are we going to do with you?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:16 PM on May 18, 2007


"Norway rats carry disease and can contaminate grain supplies. A single pair of the rodents can produce up to 15,000 rats a year."

...

Either someone misplaced a decimal somewhere or I'm about to have nightmares. Cute whiskery nightmares.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:27 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Rats would only improve Calgary at the moment.

they don't eat, don't sleep
they don't feed, they don't seethe
bare their gums when they moan and squeak
lick the dirt off a larger one's feet
they don't push, don't crowd
congregate until they're much too loud
fuck to procreate till they are dead
drink the blood of their so called best friend
they don't scurry when something bigger comes their way
don't pack themselves together and run as one
don't shit where they're not supposed to
don't take what's not theirs, they don't compare
they don't scam, don't fight
don't oppress an equals given rights
starve the poor so they can be well fed
line their holes with the dead ones bread
they don't scurry when something bigger comes their way
don't pack themselves together and run as one
don't shit where they're not supposed to
don't take what's not theirs, they don't compare...
they don't scurry when something bigger comes their way
don't pack themselves together and run as one
don't shit where they're not supposed to
don't take what's not theirs, they don't compare...
rats...they don't compare
rats...they don't compare
ben, the two of us need look no more
ben, the two of us need look no more
posted by jimmythefish at 6:29 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I heard the same said of cockroaches in Sweden. (That by building codes, and direct eradication, that Kackelaecka had been wiped out.) Always wondered if this was a widespread or idiosyncratic myth.
posted by ~ at 6:35 PM on May 18, 2007


Yuck. Rats. Smash 'em! Smash 'em good!
posted by hojoki at 6:38 PM on May 18, 2007


A cautionary tale about humans driving out animal species:

"From 1958 to 1962, China implemented “the great leap forward” project to eliminate pests including rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows. Sparrows were on the list because their grain eating habits that caused disruption to China’s agriculture. During the project, peasants were to run around in circles banging pots and yelling. This scared the sparrows, who having nowhere to land died from exhaustion. The elimination of the sparrows helped the harvest in China the following year, but they had overlooked that sparrows eat locust. So locusts swarmed China the following year causing a famine and an estimated thirty million people died from starvation."

Don't know if rats are beneficial in any way, though. Maybe there's absolutely no downside to getting rid of rats. Anyway, clearly there was no mass starvation in Alberta!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:39 PM on May 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


I feel a Karl Pilkington 'Do We Need 'Em' coming on.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:42 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Great post.
posted by philfromhavelock at 6:43 PM on May 18, 2007


I once visited Ulva Island, a little natural habitat way south in New Zealand. Beautiful island with native plant and animals. They led a huge campaign to eradicate rats on the island and succeeded in 1996. Now more birds are coming back.

Rats rats lay down flat
Yes yes yes yes lay down flat
And if you think you're unloved well we know about that
posted by Nelson at 6:50 PM on May 18, 2007


flapjax, in this case they are keeping out a non-native species, not driving out a native one.
posted by winston at 6:51 PM on May 18, 2007


"Sparrows were on the list because their grain eating habits that caused disruption to China’s agriculture. During the project, peasants were to run around in circles banging pots and yelling."

Wait -- I thought they were melting their pots to "make steel." Maybe that was after waxing the local sparrows.
posted by psmith at 7:17 PM on May 18, 2007


Grimgrin - Either someone misplaced a decimal somewhere or I'm about to have nightmares.

Rats reach sexual maturity at 5 weeks (35 days). Females are in estrus, eseentially, all the time, litter sizes of 10-12, gestation of 22 days.

From two mice at the onset of maturity (5 weeks/35 days) + 22 day gestation = 57 days, you now have 12+2 rats.

The two oldest rats will have another litter (another +12 rats) before the first generation reaches sexual maturity. Now at 92 days we have 26 rats.

Each of the newly mature rats pair off (6) and produce 12 more rats (+72). Each. While this is happening, the first pair have another 12 rats. The time the 2' direct generation becomes sexually mature is 149 at a grand total of 110 rats.

From a single founding pair, in about three months you get 26 rats and by five months you get over a hundred rats. Then the numbers really start to swell. Exponentially.

*assuming all offspring survive and reach sexual maturity and pregnancy at minimal time, &c&c.
posted by porpoise at 7:19 PM on May 18, 2007


Rats, cockroaches, and one other creature on this planet are omniverous and can be found everywhere.
posted by eye of newt at 7:21 PM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Don't know if rats are beneficial in any way

Well, for one thing, they are particularly beneficial in all sorts of science. Yeah, not particular rats, but rats in general are used extensively in all sorts of research.

flapjax, in this case they are keeping out a non-native species, not driving out a native one.
Yet when we talk about feral cats being a threat to native species in the US everyone gets crazy and weepy-eyed about it because they are cats. Rats are equally (if not more) intelligent than cats, but they have a bad reputation, so we treat them like pests. But we don't do this with feral cat populations that are attacking native bird, frog, etc. species because we have a higher percentage of cats domesticated over rats.

Don't get me wrong, btw, as I happen to LOVE cats. I am devastatingly sad that I can't own any (but I love my wife a lot more, and she's deadly allergic), but house cats aren't native to the US and plenty of rats are, yet we'd stamp out the rats as a whole if we could.

If you're interested in a mostly entertaining but not particularly thorough examination of rats, there's always Robert Sullivan's book Rats.
posted by smallerdemon at 7:23 PM on May 18, 2007


Either someone misplaced a decimal somewhere....

Nope, I beleive that is possible. Just consider that one breeding pair may yield 8 pups a month (that's 96 pups for the original pair). The first 8 pups would sexually mature in about 2 months, and if Mendel is right probably half of those 8 would be males and half females. If those 4 females breed then they will generate 320 pups in 10 months. Those then would produce 8 pups/per female, and if you keep doing the math you will see that 15000 is not a far-fetched number.

Sweet dreams.
posted by dov3 at 7:25 PM on May 18, 2007


:) I can't let this thread pass without pointing to this fact gathered from Wikipedia's entry on the fancy rat:

"Of interesting note, on the Isle of Man the word rat was once part of a set of sea-taboos, and is commonly replaced with "longtail" by the superstitious."
posted by smallerdemon at 7:31 PM on May 18, 2007


I just mentioned this post to the dual-citizenship wielding Canadian across the table from me. After a moment of silence he replied with "Alberta is the Texas of Canada" before turning back to his laptop.
posted by truex at 7:35 PM on May 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Rats rats lay down flat
Yes yes yes yes lay down flat
And if you think you're unloved well we know about that
posted by Nelson at 7:50 PM on May 18

Yes yes yes yes. Nice Syd Barrett reference, Nelson.
posted by Eekacat at 7:36 PM on May 18, 2007


They make nice pets. They smell like tortillas.
posted by lemuria at 7:40 PM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


So what'd Alberta do with every human of normal or over intelligence? Deport them to B.C.?
posted by davy at 7:41 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


So what'd Alberta do with every human of normal or over intelligence? Deport them to B.C.?

Alberta, like Texas, gets a bad rap; there are a lot of very smart and very nice people in both places, and most of the negatives attached to either can be attributed to a small subsection of big-mouthed locals and the willful ignorance and jealousy of their detractors.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:26 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I'm so late to this thread and still am in time to make a gratuitous Steven Harper reference. Perhaps deporting him to Ottawa considered a rat control measure? Or is his export mandated under the "Alberta Liver Lipped Weasel Control Act, 2006"?
posted by Keith Talent at 8:35 PM on May 18, 2007


Second the motion on Robert Sullivan's book Rats. He's a good friend of a good friend of mine, who introduced me to him and his work, and pretty much all his books are worth reading. (Powell's interview about Sullivan and the rats.)
posted by LeLiLo at 8:39 PM on May 18, 2007


Alberta is the reason
that the president prime minister rat is dead
posted by Challahtronix at 8:40 PM on May 18, 2007


I can't believe I'm so late to this thread and still am in time to make a gratuitous Steven Harper reference. Perhaps deporting him to Ottawa considered a rat control measure? Or is his export mandated under the "Alberta Liver Lipped Weasel Control Act, 2006"?

Ah, damnit. Now I'm too late to make my "How did the people of Alberta get rid of all their rats? They elected them and sent them to Ottawa!" joke.
posted by threetoed at 9:05 PM on May 18, 2007


The other good thing about rats is that they make fantastic pets. They eat the same things we do, and are closer evolutionarily to us than dogs or cats. The major downside to having pet rats is that they die after 2 years.

flickr tag search: pet rats.

Also, they have Colbert-sized balls. No, really.
posted by freedryk at 9:06 PM on May 18, 2007


Who else was born in the year of the rat?
posted by telstar at 9:07 PM on May 18, 2007


I just want to point out that the "no rats in Alberta" thing isn't totally true. I had my pack and some gear chewed on by pack rats in the Rockies, on the Alberta side of the Divide!
posted by bumpkin at 10:49 PM on May 18, 2007


When I was a teenager involved in the West Point horsey scene, there was a sergeant who lived at Morgan Farm. He (in his off-time) and his family were responsible for maintaining the stables and such. It was a really nice housing perk.

There were a number of us brats who were about the same age as the sergeant's kids. We were mostly officers' kids whose families boarded or 'adopted' horses at the 'club.'

We were expected to at least clean our own horses' stalls, whether it was actually our horse or one we had 'adopted' from the cadets; the cadets were assigned horses and required to maintain their stalls, as duty allowed...

So, when I was there, mostly the 'kids' coalitiion' got things done. We were there to ride; but, it was always a party late after riding to bust up the horses' bedding and throw it down the chutes...

We'd get all drunk doing that and then go rat-hunting. Usually that meant everyone arming themselves with some bedding-busting tool such as a pitchfork or crowbar (they were best for the initial hits: wham! wham! ...nix the wires... wham! wham! wham! ... pitchforks, if you please! Ho! Ho! Ho! Down the chute with the bedding goes!).

We'd get ready and throw on the lights in a section of the barn and let loose as the rats scurried out of the sudden light for cover.

Since we were all pretty much falling-down-the-chutes plastered during these hunts, the rats did pretty well; but, we'd get some.
posted by taosbat at 11:30 PM on May 18, 2007


Just to clearify the flapjax at midnite comment, the Great Leap Forward involved much, much more than just the chasing away pests and thus the famine was much than just locusts. It involved the collectivization of the countryside, more creative accounting than you can shake the Enron building at, and as psmith mentioned, ridiculous backyard steel furnaces that tried to double steel production in a year by smelting cookery and farm equipment.
posted by trinarian at 11:58 PM on May 18, 2007


Who else was born in the year of the rat?
posted by telstar at 9:07 PM on May 18


I wasn't, but it's still a good song.
posted by kosher_jenny at 2:15 AM on May 19, 2007


For some reason I read this post as referring to "the only art-free zone" and found myself saying "Good thing too!". Not sure what that makes me, beyond dyslexic...
posted by terrymiles at 2:34 AM on May 19, 2007


You’ll find that there is nothing that the rats chew on
Between British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
Alberta said: no rats!
Thinking little of the cats
And now, in Medicine Hat, no rats for cats to chew on
posted by pracowity at 5:02 AM on May 19, 2007


And I think you'll also find that rats live on no evil star.
posted by pracowity at 5:04 AM on May 19, 2007


Harper an Albertan? Not for the first 20+ years of his life. I guess the hype works. He and Bush are both just simple, working class ranch hands, eh?
posted by dreamsign at 5:57 AM on May 19, 2007


I love rats. They are like smart little dogs you can put in a box when you go away for the weekend. When you see them eat raw spaghetti hand over hand you will never again be freaked out when you see them in a scary movie because they become strange little people. Strange little people who will steal a chocolate chip cookie and try to run to the closet with it even though it is 5 times the size of their head. Strange little people who subsonicly giggle like children when you flip them on their backs and tickle their bellies.

I'm sure lots of people don't believe rats are cute or great pets but you are thinking of wild rats. I like dogs but absolutely hate feral dogs (I had a bad west virgina state campground experience). Rats can be ridiculously cute.
posted by srboisvert at 6:51 AM on May 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Rats, cockroaches, and one other creature on this planet are omniverous and can be found everywhere.

Damn bears. Not just the #1 threat to God's own America, but to the world.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:21 AM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]



.
posted by perilous at 8:56 AM on May 19, 2007


srboisvert is making me miss having pet rats. Unfortunately, they tend to induce allergies in some people after a while...including me. Which sucks, since they really are the perfect pets.
posted by Vervain at 10:20 AM on May 19, 2007


I.
Hate.
Rats.

I loathe rodents. I can deal with spiders and crazy looking insects and snakes and whatever (even bot flies), but rodents. DIE. DIE NOW.

/ coincidentally Albertan
posted by C.Batt at 10:46 AM on May 19, 2007


Trecento Milioni Di Topi


Ci sono topi tutti in giro, topi tutti intorno,
topi mattina e sera, topi mattina e giorno.
Sudici topi lucidi, giocano a nascondino,
fanno tana nel tronco degli alberi,
dentro al nostro giardino.

Ci sono topi sui tuoi capelli,
dei lunghi topi chiari, topi sui tuoi capelli.
Ed io ti ho veduto salire sopra un altare
e dire una messa da topi e per i topi pregare,
e cucire ho veduto vestiti da sposa, per nozze di piombo,
e topi gridare e ballare sulla cima del mondo.

Ci sono topi tutti intorno, topi in Via Frattina,
traversavano la strada tranquillamente alle undici di mattina.
Sterminate distese di topi, refrattarie ad ogni sterminio,
sorridevano dalle finestre tutte d'oro e d'alluminio.
Erano i topi del magro cuore, seduti ad aspettare,
il nostro magro cuore.

Così ti ho veduto dividere e moltiplicare,
con trecento milioni di topi da calcolare,
e trascorrere ho visto fanciulle,
con le guance di pesca, e pescatori pescare,
usare occhi per esca.

-- Francesco De Gregori
posted by matteo at 10:47 AM on May 19, 2007


in English, not as interesting:

300,000,000 Rats

Rats all over the place, rats all around,
Rats morning and evening, rats morning and day
Filthy shiny rats, they play catch,
They make lair in the trees trunks,
Within to our garden.

There are rats on your hair, long blonde rats
Rats on your hair.
And I have seen you go up to the altar and pray for the rats,
A Mass for the rats
And I have seen you sew wedding dresses for wedding made of lead
I've seen rats dance and scream on the top of the world

Rats all over the place, rats in Via Frattina,
Calmly crossing the street at 11AM
Infinite fields of rats, impossible to exterminate,
Smiling from windows of gold and aluminum.

They were the rats of the meager heart, sitting, waiting,
Our meager heart.
Therefore I have seen you divide and multiply,
With three hundred million rats to account for,
And I have seen young girls, their clean-scrubbed faces, and fishermen fish,
Using eyes as bait.

posted by matteo at 10:58 AM on May 19, 2007


srboisvert is making me miss having pet rats. Unfortunately, they tend to induce allergies in some people after a while...including me.

I miss them too Vervain. There seems to be a certain window of allowable rat pet time. The same thing happens to most researchers who handle rats. Usually by the end of grad school they are allergic...
posted by srboisvert at 10:59 AM on May 19, 2007


I'm with srboisvert on this one. Wild rats can indeed be scary, but domesticated rats can make excellent pets. I'm particularly fond of the hairless dumbo variety.

Though of the three rats we have, only the hairless dumbo seems attract our cats. I guess they like her best as well.
posted by quin at 11:44 AM on May 19, 2007


I'm gay, I vote Green, and I live in Calgary with my partner and we're perfectly happy here, so please stop with the "Texas of Canada" bullshit. It's not paradise here but it's sure as fuck not Texas.

We might have rats but my God are there a lot of mice here.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:55 PM on May 19, 2007


....I meant, we might NOT have rats....
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:56 PM on May 19, 2007


ethnomethodologist : I'm not defending Texas per se, but there are certainly gay couples living together in Texas, as there are throughout all other states in the union. One can assume that they're "perfectly happy" there as well, or at least happy enough to remain where they are. They have no Green Party to vote for, however, and that is probably unfortunate.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:28 AM on May 20, 2007


telstar: Who else was born in the year of the rat?

Me! I am a prize Rat and can't wait for our year to come round again. And yes, kosher_jenny, it is a very good song.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:35 PM on May 20, 2007


Shooting rats? SHOOTING RATS? I'm pretty up on guns, but to me this almost seems like lunacy unless you have special rat sniper teams using low velocity specially loaded cartridges and that seems awfully expensive and a lot of work.

What do you shoot rats with? Did they finally find a purpose for all those .25ACP rounds?
posted by Sukiari at 11:05 PM on May 20, 2007


Rats and packrats are not the same thing. (see bumpkin's post above)

Whereas a nice rat may smell like a tortilla, a packrat smells like a bedbound Collyer brother lying in his own incontinence after his caretaking sibling has been crushed by a booby trap made of newspaper stacks.

Speaking of the deathly stench of urine, have you heard of amberat? That's what they call the solidified urine of packrats when it's coating their packed-away treasures in their middens. Apparently, it's a good preservative, and anthropologists and paleoecologists can study times gone by based on these preserved seeds and book shreds.
posted by Sallyfur at 11:29 PM on May 20, 2007


What do you shoot rats with?

Havermeyer
posted by taosbat at 11:34 PM on May 20, 2007


Sukiari writes "Shooting rats? SHOOTING RATS? I'm pretty up on guns, but to me this almost seems like lunacy unless you have special rat sniper teams using low velocity specially loaded cartridges and that seems awfully expensive and a lot of work."

.22LR is the choice for gopher, I'd imagine it would work well on rats as well.
posted by Mitheral at 3:41 PM on May 22, 2007


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