“What a pest?”, many have heard this rhetorical question being asked about a fellow human when the subject is not present. What about the actual subject that inspires the question? Rats are true nightmares for farmers. They eat away his plants and then make holes in his storage. Add to that the spread of germs, what is not there to hate in a rat? The Government has an agency to control the problem of pests, there are specific drugs available in the market to deal with the menace of rats. Yet, they are stubborn. Rats do not know how to lose and live everywhere. From the streets of Bombay to the bamboo forests of Shillong, rats are everywhere.
Now think of a utopian place where these pests do not exist. Quite tough, it so happens that the utopian place is not so utopian and is actually very rooted in reality. The name of this remarkable place is Alberta. It is a province of Canada. It is the fourth most populous of the Canadian provinces and the largest prairie province.
Now how do you deal with a pandemic such as rats? Alberta started preparing early. There were legislation in place before rats entered the province. Alberta is predominantly an agricultural province. Any threat to agriculture was a matter of utmost importance. The people unanimously supported the administration. Such legislation was passed that any animal or insect that harmed or destroyed crops be termed as a pest and then systematically measures would be taken to end the menace that these pests posed.
The people supported the legislation and wanted all pests to be terminated, however, they did not really know, what the rats looked like. The administration had to circulate preserved specimens to make people aware of the menace that was imminent.
When the menace did arrive it was mainly on the eastern part of the province. Each municipality appointed a pest control officer. When the administration saw that it was losing its footing, it decided to hire a private firm. This private firm brought with it, its effectiveness and speed but this was due to the lack or non-existence of accountability and liability it felt for the people. The company used Arsenic trioxide tracking powder to deal with the rats.
Another measure that was more cost-effective was the practice of baiting rats with warfarin, an anticoagulant, coated coarsely rolled oats provided the best results. The Native American community was not ready to accept this method as they feared their children and livestock would be poisoned. However, when a mayor in a casual conversation with the head of a tribe, ate those oats, their beliefs were beaten blue. They expected him to die the next moment when it didn’t happen so, they understood the use of the bait and adopted it.
Alberta being rat is free is not just due to the administration’s work. Geographical factors also are massively important in this. The rat in context is the Norway Rat and not every variety of rodent. We should all learn from Alberta, after all, who wants these pests squeaking all night.