For some reason, Alberta has long claimed to be rat-free. In fact, when Albertans sing O Canada at hockey games, they sing: “The True North Strong and Rat-Free.”
Well, I made that up. But they could.
At least until recently, when the rat firewall between Alberta and the rest of the world has shown signs of breaking down.
All right, stop laughing. Alberta takes its rat-free status very seriously. It claims to be one of the three places in the world, the other two being the Arctic and Antarctica, that are rat-free.
The province budgets $500,000 per year to clean up any residual rats. Did you know (according to Wikipedia) only licensed rat facilities, such as zoos and research establishments are allowed to own rats, and possession of an unlicensed rat (including pets) is punishable by a $5,000 fine or 60 days in jail?
Is that a rat-tail in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
But now rats are turning up all over the place. They could be sneaking over the border from Swift Current; they have been spotted in Calgary, Taber, Newell County, Airdrie and Springbank. A high-level rat inspector has been dispatched to Calgary to ascertain if this here’s an official infestation.
Here in Vancouver, it’s tough to see what the fuss is all about. We’ve got rats, millions of them.
A rat sneaks across the power line in my otherwise pristine (I’ll have you know) backyard every 15 minutes. Rats own the alleys. They elect representatives to city council. (Oh, sorry, those are metaphorical rats. The Norway or sewer rat (rattus norvegicus) has yet to acquire the vote. But it can’t be long.)
This is a port city, and trying to rid a port city of rats is a little bit like trying to rid a port city of drugs, prostitution, human trafficking, etc. But in Alberta, they’re a little prone to magical, aggrandized thinking. Alberta, after all, is a hotbed of fundamentalist creationists, one of whom happens to be our prime minister, and for anyone who really believes the world is 6,000 years old, it’s only a short step to believing there ain’t no rats.
Rats are, in fact, pests. They eat crops, spread disease and chew stuff, so it makes sense to try to control them, and Alberta has, for the most part, been successful. But why set yourself up as rat-free, thereby setting yourself up for failure?
No human device has ever been completely successful — only Arctic and Antarctic frosts do the trick. Whatever else they are, rats aren’t stupid. Not only that, they’re prolific. Apparently, one motivated pair of fertile rats can lead to 15,000 descendents in a year.
We better hope they don’t get the vote. If you think there are too many rats elected to high office now, wait until they can vote for themselves …