Alberta’s rat-free status may be at risk because of severe new restrictions on use of the main rat-control poison used in the province.
Jon Hood, Agricultural Service Board fieldman for the Municipal District of Taber, said he couldn’t believe the news when he first heard it.
The new restrictions follow an extensive evaluation of several active ingredients in the pesticide, said Margarita Conti of Ottawa, a senior official with the pesticide re-evaluation management directorate. She spoke via satellite link to the 2010 south region Agricultural Service Board conference in Taber.
But local municipal agriculture officials say the second-generation anticoagulant is key to preventing rat populations from moving into Alberta.
Hood predicted the public may appreciate the tighter restrictions on the poison but have then second thoughts when their farms and homes are overrun by rats. A single female rat starts breeding at three months, and that rat and her offspring can produce 12,000 rats a year, he said.
Hood said it is another example of an urban-rural battle with decisions made based on urban concerns that have proved baseless in rural agricultural uses. A major concern of the reevaluating team is that the ingredient might be found by children.
“The Alberta government has been monitoring this program since the 1990s with no reports of child contact,” said Hood. “Nobody can buy this ingredient. It has to be acquired from Phil Merrill, Alberta Agriculture pest control specialist, or in this municipality, from me. We tell producers exactly how it should be used. Under the new rules, if used, it must be indoors, or in registered bait stations up to 15 metres from a building.”
Generally, rat poisons have been placed under buildings along the Saskatchewan border. But there are fewer buildings now and rats seldom gain access to them, so control agents have been placing the poison in haystacks. It has also been used in dumps where rats can frequent. Hood said the first generation of the ingredient (which slowly builds up in rats making it more susceptible to scavenging animals and predators) remains available to service boards.
Hood said the review was based on American data, concentrating on potential impacts on children and non-target scavenger or predator animals.
Hoodsaiditisanother exampleofanurban-rural battlewithdecisionsmade basedonurbanconcernsthat haveprovedbaselessinrural agriculturaluses.