Rats have been making headlines in Saskatchewan, resulting in many Albertans asking what they should be doing and what they should be watching for to ensure that Alberta remains rat-free.
“What Albertans need to keep in mind is that rats need ready access to three things – food, water and habitat,” says Rob Pulyk, inspector with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “For farmers, especially those living in Ranges one, two and three, it is advisable to place rat bait between greenfeed and straw bales about every 20 feet. In addition, place bait under wooden grain bins and set up stations.
“The first step to control the infestation and migration of Norway rats into the province, it’s important to keep a watch for signs of an unwanted ‘visitor.’ Set up a bait station in your yard to monitor for rats. This can consist of an old tire propped-up on one end with a 2×4 on one end. Place the bait in the centre, put a plywood cover over top and weigh it down with a brick. You can monitor this station on a weekly basis for signs of rat visitation.”
Some steps farmers can take to keep their yards and farms rat free:
ensure that all garbage is placed in a metal bin with a tight lid
keep pet food indoors as pet food is very appealing to rats
seal off any half-inch or larger holes into your house by covering the hole with steel wool held in place by a 2×4
keep grass around any structure very short – long grass makes a very appealing habitat for rats remove any wood or garbage piles along buildings
remove any old vehicles or equipment from the yard
“Farmers bringing in bales or equipment from out of province should make a check when they get to the Alberta border to ensure they haven’t picked up any hitchhiking rats,” says Pulyk. “When you get to your farm, check again to ensure that you haven’t brought any rats in with you.”
Although difficult to do, restricting water for rats by removing any access to water where possible. Water restriction will minimize the chance of rats creating a habitat on your farm.
“Checking bait stations on a weekly basis is an important step to ensuring that rats haven’t invaded your farm or yard,” says Pulyk. “Other things to look for are two-inch holes in bales or under structures. These holes are spaced approximately one to two feet apart with flattened grass ‘runways’ around and between them. Look for chew marks through wood, wire or cinder block concrete. Lastly, watch for visible signs such as rat scat, which are capsular-shaped up to three-quarters of an inch long, and dark brown to black in colour.”
Following these practices and keeping a watch for signs of rats are the first safeguards in keeping rats off your farm and out of your yard and home.
If you spot a rat or a rat nesting area, call the Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276) or your local Ag fieldman. It is important to NOT disturb the nest as doing so will likely result in the rats scattering, making it more difficult for the ag fieldmen or pest control officers to get control of the infestation.