what... what happened in Alberta
August 26, 2018 1:51 PM   Subscribe

 
the twelve thousand page Wikipedia edit war about it

If anything ever demanded a tl;dr...
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:01 PM on August 26 [8 favorites]


Better view of one of the best graphics ever produced.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:03 PM on August 26 [8 favorites]


The best tweet in the "Is Alberta Rat-Free" thread: "It has been ever since Ted Cruz left"

The zeal of the effort was hinted at by the name of the go-to poison, provided free by the government: Warfarin. (from the first link)

A little trivia; Warfarin gets the first part of its name from the group that funded research into it at the school where it was discovered; the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
posted by TedW at 2:06 PM on August 26 [36 favorites]


No shit! I always thought it was a play on "warfare"
posted by mrjohnmuller at 2:09 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's actually twelve thousand pages? It's a take on this @dril tweet.
posted by solarion at 2:13 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


the twelve thousand page Wikipedia edit war about it

wiki hamsterdam
posted by ryanrs at 2:44 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I'm a native Albertan and I've never seen a rat in the wild. Ever. Anywhere. I've travelled to many of the larger cities in Canada, the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia and I have yet to see a rat with my own eyes. There's a part of me that likes to think that the rats can sense an Albertan coming and they make themselves scarce lest the Rat Patrol takes them out.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 2:53 PM on August 26 [48 favorites]


Fun fact: warfarin also doubles as an important anticoagulant drug, used to treat deep-vein thrombosis and the like (an ex-girlfriend was on it for a while). The mechanism that makes it an effective anticoagulant is also what makes it an effective poison, a sort of induced hemophilia. Thus, Vitamin K, which is contraindicated in people using it medicinally (or foods containing it) is also a good antidote for warfarin poisoning.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:59 PM on August 26 [14 favorites]


I guess there are just some places that rats won't go.
posted by philip-random at 3:00 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


I believe you meant to say eraticated
posted by Shepherd at 3:02 PM on August 26 [19 favorites]


I just mentioned this to my girlfriend, who is from Alberta, on gchat, and she responded:
"may I just say
Alberta IS rat free
and anyone who says otherwise
is a pedantic, frivolous LIAR"
posted by ITheCosmos at 3:06 PM on August 26 [21 favorites]


Fun fact: warfarin also doubles as an important anticoagulant drug, used to treat deep-vein thrombosis and the like (an ex-girlfriend was on it for a while). The mechanism that makes it an effective anticoagulant is also what makes it an effective poison, a sort of induced hemophilia.

Trade: Coumadin

Street: The Embalmer

But in all seriousness I have friends who rely on it to prevent clotting - one for an artificial heart valve situation. It has many helpful applications.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:39 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Detail from the 1954 booklet Rat Control in Alberta.

Rat Control in Alberta would make a perfectly cromulent band name.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:48 PM on August 26 [10 favorites]


This morning when I got to work (just outside DC) there was a dead rat the size of a healthy kitten lying on the sidewalk a few feet from our door. I thought it was a possum before I got close enough, it was that big.

Alberta, I salute you. You did good.
posted by nonasuch at 3:54 PM on August 26 [11 favorites]


The brand name for the most commonly used brand of anti-coagulant is Coumadin, but the generic is literally pennies in cost.

Of course I take the generic, and I like to tell people who comment on the horrendous bruising it causes that it's from the rat poison I take.

Yes, my doctor prescribes rat poison because it keeps me healthy. One of the amusing tales in medicine.

Rodent bait warfarin is more expensive then my RX, but the rats are not apparently interested in my drugs. We have only had rats come in once, and bait over the winter and next spring getting a tough old barn cat did the trick. Never put out bait where you have a cat, if they eat the carcass, they could easily die.

Apparently, eating Natto is supposed to be an efficient preventive of strokes and helps decrease the risk of a variety of cardiovascular diseases.

Personally, I've doubt if rats would eat those stinky beans, and I prefer taking a pill to fermented soy product. *gags*
posted by BlueHorse at 3:56 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


Recently immortalized in the best show on television, Joe Pera Talks to You About the Rat Wars of Alberta, Canada, 1950 - Present Day (ironically region-locked for Canadians but if you're a Canadian on the internet you probably have the tools to route around that damage).
posted by Gortuk at 4:17 PM on August 26 [11 favorites]


I first saw rats whilst taking a late night stroll round Cambridge, MA. No fewer than seven of the vile beasts erupted from a garbage can as I passed by. My unprepared Albertan self shrieked and fled. Never since have I questioned the Rat Patrol.
posted by sidek at 5:02 PM on August 26 [15 favorites]


We had a rat get inside and it avoided all traps, finally killing itself when it chewed into and licked clean a small bottle of our dog's ear medicine. I cut holes in the drywall until I found the carcass but unfortunately, she'd already had a litter that couldn't survive without her. The house smelled for months.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:07 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Yes, my doctor prescribes rat poison because it keeps me healthy. One of the amusing tales in medicine.

The line between poison and drug is murkier than you'd think. Digoxin is related to the cardiac glycosides in foxglove. Atropine and scopolamine come from belladonna (deadly nightshade). Non-depolarizing neuromuscular blockers like rocuronium are derivatives of tubocurarine, used by South American tribes as arrow poison. Nitrogen mustards come from mustard gas. Botox is just purified botulinum toxin. Etc, etc.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:05 PM on August 26 [16 favorites]


Well- the dose makes the poison. Plenty of beneficial stuff is super toxic in high quantities.
We have way too many feral and outdoor cats/coyotes for me to ever be comfortable using warfarin in San Francisco. But after our drought/heavy rain cycle a few years ago we had a rat-splosion in the park a few blocks away and a few got into our garage and it was a nightmare getting them out. But I’m pretty sure being a port town no amount of rat killing back in the day would ever have saved the city by the bay for being a rat haven. Shame.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:17 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


Now do BC, please. Some days I feel like I see more of the damn things than squirrels. I've spent three days shoving steel wool into every nook, cranny, aperture and opening in the drywall to deter their smaller cousins from coming inside.

Do this for me and I'll tell the phone survey people I <3 Kinder Morgan or w/e.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 6:25 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I feel like this is an unexamined niche for drone technologies and needle guns.
posted by aramaic at 6:35 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


...buuuuut I do reside in California, so that remark was probably pretty predictable in retrospect.
posted by aramaic at 6:36 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


SonInLawOfSam: "There's a part of me that likes to think that the rats can sense an Albertan coming and they make themselves scarce lest the Rat Patrol takes them out."

We're talking about the old show with Victor from Young & the Restless, right?
posted by Chrysostom at 6:58 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


"A little trivia; Warfarin gets the first part of its name from the group that funded research into it at the school where it was discovered; the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation."

There's a really touching story about this -- and an antidote to Scott Walker's Wisconsin. UW is a land grant university, which means that it has extension offices serving every county, and one of its main purposes is to research and disseminate the world's-best research on all agricultural matters for farmers in its state. The land grant university system, created by the Morrill Act signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 during the Civil War, is one of the major reasons for the United States' agricultural dominance, and one of the reasons the Midwestern and Great Plains university systems are so strong and broad-based, since they reached farmers on their farms, and those grateful farmers sent their kids to learn Shakespeare and farming at the university. (If you know a farmer who went to a land grant university, he TOTALLY knows more Shakespeare than you, and this is one of the reasons the Midwest is great fun.)

So the story about Warfarin goes, a farmer's cows kept dropping dead, bleeding out in the field for no reason. So he loads one of the carcasses up in his pickup, drives to Madison, and hauls them onto the steps of the ag college, and says, "My cows keep dying. Tell me why." And the professors are only a little taken aback, because they're a land grant university and literally their whole purpose is to improve agriculture in the state of Wisconsin, so they study the cow and go to the fields and do a bunch of research and eventually figure out, it's the clover, and it kills rats at low doses and cows at high doses due to its anticoagulant properties, which can be harnessed for humans with clotting problems. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Fund funds research into this as both a rat poison and a human medicine, and Warfarin is the ultimate result (which is both a rat poison and a human medicine). But it comes from the trust that regular, everyday farmers had in the land grant university at UW, and the trust the the scientists at UW had in the fact that farmers would find interesting problems that they could solve, and the trust that the Wisconsin Alumni Research Fund had that the problems UW scientists and Wisconsin farmers found were worth solving and would help the state. And the feeling that the UW system belonged not just to the moneyed sons of the merchant class, but to the farmers and regular folk all around the state, who could drop dead cows on the steps of the ag college and demand a solution.

Scott Walker wants to break that trust and that whole-state spirit animating the UW system, but Warfarin stands as a monument to what a state university that is owned, loved, and trusted by the people of its state can do. And if you take Warfarin, you're participating in a great experiment started by Abraham Lincoln in the depths of the Civil War to extend the knowledge of the liberal university into every tiny corner of every state, and to make us richer in resources, yes, but also in mind and spirit thereby. A liberal arts education is the education needed to be free, and Lincoln was determined it would reach every county in the entire country, providing both practical agricultural and technical information, and the habits of mind that created and protected a free people -- the reason the US started with public universities (and public libraries) at all, beginning with UNC (which just tore down Silent Sam), to teach its citizens how to be free. And that is why your local farmers know Shakespeare, and that is why UW provided the world with Warfarin, and that is why we can't allow public land grant universities and everything they stand for to be swept under by false libertarian ideals that reject the greatness of community for the false idol of individualism.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:58 PM on August 26 [286 favorites]


I am rarely proud of my province, the Texas of Canada, but when I am, it's because we are rat free since '53. That and the mayors of Calgary. AL Duerr / Nenshi 4 Eva!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:11 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


I am unphased by rats after living in the land of Nutria the swamp rats. Oh Louisiana, don't change.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:53 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Article is worth it for all the hilariously incongruous photos of well armed Canadians posing with dead rodents.
posted by midmarch snowman at 8:11 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


it's the clover

Not just any clover -- spoiled clover:

During the process of spoiling, the coumarins in sweet clover are converted to toxic dicumarol, a potent vitamin K antagonist and anticoagulant. Any method of hay storage that allows molding of sweet clover promotes the likelihood of formation of dicumarol in the hay.
posted by benzenedream at 8:45 PM on August 26 [14 favorites]


O_o
posted by mwhybark at 10:48 PM on August 26


I first saw rats whilst taking a late night stroll round Cambridge, MA.

That was my first exposure to rats. I stayed out all night, walked down a quiet side street (maybe in Central Square? I don't remember now) a little before dawn, and RATS! were squirming all over one another to get back into the drains. They're down there watching you, Cambridge people.
posted by pracowity at 12:42 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


the twelve thousand page Wikipedia edit war about it

What.

As an obsessive boor, I must point that this hardly registers as an edit war. Doesn't look like the file page is locked either. The article kind of was, but only for unregistered/new users.
posted by Vesihiisi at 12:58 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Ugh, this map brings out the pedant in me. There are brown rats in Iceland, for one. I’m all for excluding Alberta on the map but if you want to get into that kind of detail you should have the rest right.
posted by Kattullus at 1:09 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Kattullus: You have what it takes to join us :)
posted by Vesihiisi at 1:14 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


They even banned ratatouille
posted by fallingbadgers at 1:22 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


> Ugh, this map brings out the pedant in me. There are brown rats in Iceland, for one.

It's a wiki - fix it, with a citation?
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:28 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


There are no rats in the middle of deserts and at the peaks of mountain ranges, but these are all covered in the map... I'm pretty sure Alberta has more rats than the Himalayas.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:56 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


It depends on what you count as a "rat" - there are pack rats and kangaroo rats all over the US deserts, and pikas well up above the timber line . . .

Here in the US capital, we're having an epic rat problem that shows no real sign of abating. Clearly what's needed is a herd of city-funded chihuahuas, but with the current administration *shrug emoji*.

metafilter: it depends on what you count as a rat
posted by aspersioncast at 6:23 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I guess I know where I want to live in the event of a worldwide zombie plague outbreak. They have practice.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:00 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Here in the US capital, we're having an epic rat problem that shows no real sign of abating. Clearly what's needed is a herd of city-funded chihuahuas, but with the current administration *shrug emoji*.

I left DC in the 90s, but I remember an article in the Post about owners of rat terriers taking their dogs downtown at night to hunt rats. DC is still the only place I've ever seen a rat, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I shrieked.

(I'm thinking direwolves would be effective for the current administration.)
posted by corvikate at 7:58 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I've heard rat control officers in Alberta complain about Saskatchewan. There'll be a barn just across the border that's infested with rats, but they can't do anything about it until the rats cross into Alberta. So they watch. And wait. And then exterminate.
posted by clawsoon at 8:43 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


With regards to the rat poison/medicine side of things, I've taken warfarin for years (hooray!) and as a result, I have to have routine tests to ensure that clotting time is as expected (hooray - I convinced my insurance company to let me get a home test machine, which is WAY better than taking a weekly trip for a blood draw!). As mentioned, warfarin blocks vitamin K, which affects clotting. As a result, many people who take warfarin are told to avoid food with vitamin K (leafy green, broccoli, pickles, etc). This is bullshit. Eat your leafy greens consistently and get your blood tested routinely and you don't have an issue.

One the rat poison side of things, I had heard (but don't see a reference) that one of the benefits of warfarin as a rat poison is that when rats get a high enough dose of it, it also raises their body temperature so if it's cooler outside, they prefer to leave to die outside instead of in your walls. Most rat poisons work when ingested because rats are incapable of vomiting, which is one of the stronger defenses against ingested poisons. Having rats die in your walls is one of the poor features of most rat poisons.

When a friend of mine was in medical school, he lived in housing that had some serious rat problems (not the worst I heard of - one former co-worker told me about buying empty metal paint cans to hold their food). He and his roommate separately decided to sort out this problem. My friend grabbed some warfarin from the hospital and his roommate set rat traps. They both worked, which is unfortunate because the rat that got into the trap left behind a scene reminiscent of a scene from a slasher movie.

The more you know.
posted by plinth at 9:38 AM on August 27 [10 favorites]


I killed a rat. Kids and I were having Morning coffee. Daughter said ‘There is a big mouse under your foot. Look down and see a rat. Grabbed it with a baby T-shirt and held her thinking ‘Now what ?’ Threw her out the window. Then took the kids down and showed them my kill. I said ‘Stop leaning out the windows. This is what happens if you go out a window.’ Then told the landlord who put a DeCon behind the stove.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:48 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


It depends on what you count as a "rat"

The map is specifically about the brown / Norwegian rat only.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:04 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


DC is still the only place I've ever seen a rat

In DC we call em 'City Kitties'.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:25 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I forgot. There were earlier rat incidents. Forty-odd years ago, I suppose. When we were kids, a friend had rats in his cellar. He would set his grandfather's old rusty animal traps down there for them like he was some old-time trapper. I would go down the creaky old stairs behind him to check the traps. Just one flashlight and some matches for light. Very low ceiling with beams you had to duck. Rats running on the beams at face level.

And one night I slept down there because, oh, well, forget why, but I had nowhere else to sleep that night and I needed to sleep, so I borrowed a blanket and slept down there until I couldn't sleep anymore and then I popped up out of the cellar door and promptly got picked up by the cops for being a kid wandering down the side of Niagara Falls Blvd at four-something in the morning wrapped in an old blanket.

But I've never seen an able rat in Alberta.
posted by pracowity at 11:56 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I recommend everyone go watch the Secret of NIMH after reading this thread as a "rodent cleanser".
posted by benzenedream at 12:38 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


"Now do BC, please. Some days I feel like I see more of the damn things than squirrels."

Well wait a minute, if Alberta still has squirrels, then it still has rats.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:38 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Alberta and only ever had a sort of vague Hollywood-esque knowledge of rats. Kinda like a mouse only bigger not not as comically large as a R.O.U.S. might be. The first time I saw a rat was in a parking lot in California when walking to my car.

It was a weird forced perspective moment. At first, I thought that cat was really, really far away. Then I thought that the curb beside that mouse must be really, really small. Then it turned and waddled towards me and I jumped about three feet in the air.

"It's just a rat," my friend assured me. However, when talking to an Albertan, that's kind of like sawing "Oh, it's just a sabre-tooted tiger." I knew they existed historically, but not in real non-animated or stuffed in a museum way.
posted by flyingfox at 12:59 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I leave work pretty late most days and on the walk home from the metro I used to see rats pretty often around this one trash can on a corner. Eventually the city removed that trash can, and I have seen rats as much there now. The other night I was walking to L'Enfant and while it's a lively area during the day, it's pretty dead on a week night, and the rats were out in full force dashing between cars and bushes.

Ah, DC.
posted by numaner at 1:35 PM on August 27


Alas, Albertans will never experience the morbid frisson I get on the bicycle, dodging road-killed rat carcasses in varied stages of decay on a hot August afternoon.

Nor the passing of the seasons as measured by their not-so-gradual mummification into a roughly (American) football-shaped flattened puck of hide and jerky. Like sand through the hourglass of time . . .
posted by aspersioncast at 4:35 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Recently immortalized in the best show on television, Joe Pera Talks to You About the Rat Wars of Alberta, Canada, 1950 - Present Day

My wife and I drew the map of Alberta on that episode!
posted by Sreiny at 6:56 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


this thread needs more Willard and/or Ben
posted by philip-random at 11:52 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


The line between poison and drug is murkier than you'd think

Meet the therapeutic index, basically the ratio of a toxic dose to an effective dose — a neat idea but difficult to quantify in the messy real world thanks to varying metabolism, etc. Warfarin is one of the drugs classified as having a narrow therapeutic index.
posted by exogenous at 9:27 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I'm a native Albertan and I've never seen a rat in the wild. Ever. Anywhere. I've travelled to many of the larger cities in Canada, the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia and I have yet to see a rat with my own eyes. There's a part of me that likes to think that the rats can sense an Albertan coming and they make themselves scarce lest the Rat Patrol takes them out.

Well, if you really want to see a rat, go to New York City and head over to the 34th St - Herald Square subway station. Stand on the N train platform for a while. Unless this has changed in the last 3 years, there is maybe a 95% chance you'll see one or more rats on the tracks. You might also spot a wild American cockroach.
posted by bananana at 10:31 AM on August 28


My understanding of warfarin's history is that its utility as a rodenticide was identified first. Its therapeutic value was subsequently recognized after a young naval recruit presented with severe bleeding after an unsuccessful suicide attempt where he persistently ingested increasing amounts of rat poison over several consecutive days before relenting; at which point he brought himself to a hospital where he eventually explained to the doctors how exactly he came to be poisoned.

It was after he made an unexpectedly complete recovery that the doctors started to investigate why this substance that had been reliably fatal to both rodents and ruminants did not have result in its intended effect in the naval recruit. Through this research and investigation they started to recognize the therapeutic value of this compound which remained the standard of care for the better part of a century.

Incidentally; I remember reading about this while performing clerical level tasks as an intern at a pharmaceutical company and thinking it strange that there as a medicine called "warfarin" and assuming it had some linguistic basis in "warfare"- especially after realizing it was the same molecule as the common rat-killer before going down the internet rabbit-hole where I discovered the true origin of the name and its association with Wisconsin.

A very interesting history here.
posted by exit at 8:13 AM on August 29 [5 favorites]


It seems that Alberta is rat-free not because rats were endemic and they exterminated them, but because they got ahead of the rats and basically prevented them from ever entering the province in large quantities. So I'm not sure their approach, which seems very heavy on warfarin poison, will necessarily work elsewhere.

Warfarin/coumadin and the other derivative synthetic anticoagulant poisons seem to be effective against small populations of rats in isolation, but given enough breeding stock, they can apparently learn not to eat the poison, or they can even become resistant to it.

As with antibiotics, warfarin seems like something best used sparingly, and deployed decisively when it is used. Halfassed applications of it are probably a good way to produce a resistant population. And the slow-acting (fairly grotesque) poisons are themselves more effective than fast-acting poisons, which rats are smart enough to avoid. (I imagine the rats standing around and drawing straws to decide who gets to try the suspicious new food.)

There has been substantial research done over decades on alternatives to anticoagulant poisons, in the form of rodent contraceptives, which are an intriguing idea for pest control because they are, in a way, a win-win. While rats have an obvious and lethal disincentive towards eating poison, there's no real disincentive to a particular individual to eating contraceptive-laced food. (As far as I know, nobody has ever recorded a rat lamenting its childless existence.)

A friend of mine was involved with research projects on them in the 1970s in Pittsburgh, placing contraceptive bait down in the subway and sewer tunnels, and the results were apparently quite good. But it wasn't continued as far as I know. Interest in contraceptive-based pest control seems to wax and wane; it seems like there's an unfortunate pattern wherein the research looks good, pilot studies look good, a wider rollout is planned, and then the public and jackass comedians get wind of it and it gets laughed into oblivion. This is despite breeding-control strategies having proved very effective against invertebrate pests (the screwworm fly was basically exterminated in North America via breeding control with radiosterilized males).

The latest iteration of rat fertility control uses a sterilization agent rather than a hormonal contraceptive, effectively putting female rats into early menopause and stopping reproduction. As of 2017 it was being tried in NYC, but I can't find a lot of recent articles. It seems to have been approved for use, although only by trained individuals. (I find it a bit hard to believe that the stuff can be more toxic than warfarin and other pesticides you can buy over the counter, but there you go.)

If it works, that seems like it could be a viable and humane approach to a lot of other pest issues. Hell, it could replace TNR for feral cats even.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:20 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


In short, Alberta only doesn't have rats, because not enough rats want to live there.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:36 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


As a rodenticide, Warfarin is considered old-fashioned. If the rat eats too much bait, predators and scavengers can be secondarily poisoned. Modern anticoagulants are formulated so that the target species is the only one that can obtain a lethal dose. There are many websites selling professional grade products to amatures these days, but you can't buy experience and knowledge. If you have a rodent problem it's best to call a professional.
posted by ambulocetus at 9:24 PM on September 4


Posting late, because I just saw this in the sidebar, but Eyebrows, your comment legit made me tear up. What a great story and what a great educational legacy. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:28 PM on September 7


A rat done bit my sister Nell...
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:24 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


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