Rat-free areas in the world; A myth or reality

Rat-free areas in the world; myth or reality?

Stories about rats overrunning cities, farms, and stores have been circulating since the dawn of civilization, and there seems to be no stop to how far and wide these persistent invaders can spread. One would be forgiven for thinking that the war on rodents is a hopeless cause, despite the numerous strategies deployed against them. But all’s not lost because there are areas in the world where the rodent infestation has either been significantly mitigated or actually eliminated. So, are there rat-free areas in the world? Is it a myth or reality? In case you, too, are wondering, let’s explore further.

Image Courtesy: Vivid Maps

Rodents are tenacious, and their abilities are remarkable. The very reason why some people wouldn’t believe there are rat-free places is because these critters are born survivors, with incredible abilities like chewing through metal, fitting through dime-sized holes and swimming long distances. Not to mention their ability to reproduce- rodents are prolific breeders, with their short gestation periods and big litters of babies. In short, we are dealing with a survivalist army here!

And this army wreaks havoc by contaminating food, reducing agricultural yields, damaging property, transmitting diseases, and causing huge financial losses. The world has seen many a severe rodent infestation across the ages, ranging from the devastating global epidemic of the bubonic plague that wiped out 30-60% of Europe’s population to the Great Mouse Invasion of 1926 in Taft, California, which resulted in a shocking mouse to citizen ratio of 20,000:1.

These rat-borne calamities eventually came to an end, either by nature or humans intervening. And, while cities like London and Paris have struggled with rodent infestation, making them the top contenders for the rattiest cities in the world, a few others have successfully deployed strategies to achieve the impossible – wipe out these notorious pests! 

Cities without rodents in the world

  1. Alberta, Canada: Alberta is known for its oil reserves and its vast farming and cattle ranching areas, but not many know that Alberta has claimed undisputable victory in the fight against the invasive Norway Rat. You literally have to visit a zoo to see an invasive rodent in Alberta. The question is, how did  Alberta achieve such a formidable task?

The answer is that the Government of Alberta acted proactively, always the smartest approach to fight a rodent infestation. Their rodent control system started taking shape even before the pesky critters made an appearance. Aiding their strategy was a unique geographical feature that reduced the number of entryways to the province. With the cold of the north and the Rocky Mountains to the West blocking off entry to the province, the only way rodents could enter the province was through the eastern border. By taking note of the rodents establishing their presence in the neighboring provinces, Alberta started preparing for their arrival by devising a strategy for when the invasive rodents breached their border. Some of the measures the province took to tackle these invasive pests include:

  • Declaring rats a pest and making rat control mandatory.
  • Eradicating rats that had already made it to Alberta and treating buildings that might shelter them.
  • Establishing a rat control zone and appointing pest control officers to police it.
  • Public education drives to keep citizens informed on how to differentiate between a native rodent and an invasive rodent.
  • Developing and sustaining campaigns with an emotional quotient that unified people in their fight against rodents.
  • Routinely inspecting the rat control zone and dealing with infestations whenever they arise.
  •  Setting up a toll-free number that lets citizens report sightings of the pest.

Eliminating the invasive rats as soon as they crossed the border, having a strategic plan set up to deal with future infestations, and, most importantly, creating a public sentiment in the fight against rodents all worked for Alberta. Albertans are very proud of what their province has achieved and continue to participate in keeping Alberta rodent-free.

While Alberta’s efforts involved preventing invasive rodents from getting in, there are other places in the world that are fighting to eradicate entrenched rodent populations.

  1. North West Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef:  This region is one of the most popular islands in the entire Barrier Reef for campers. It is also the largest breeding ground for seabird species like wedge-tailed shearwaters and black noddies. But common house mice, who got to the island by hitching a ride with the campers, started wreaking havoc on the population of these bird species. By direct predation of the eggs and the chicks who nest on the ground level, these mice started to flourish.

With native wildlife and vegetation under threat due to the invasive species, an intervention was urgently needed. With an intensive, 2-year team effort, the invasive species was finally eradicated. The process by which this was achieved was threefold:

  • Detecting the level of infestation- Peanut butter was placed in the center of a black trakka tunnel, and mice had to walk along an ink pad to reach it, leaving footprints and making it easy to detect an infestation. 119 of the 120 tracking sites detected mice, so the infestation was severe.
  • Three rounds of aerial baiting were carried out, where helicopters were used to spread poison bait across the entire island.
  • The monitoring was repeated five times throughout the project.

At the end of the 2-year period, the ink pads showed no more mice tracks.  Other islands like South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic Island, were also able to restore their native species by undertaking the largest rat eradication project in history. By relying on helicopters, ship support, and a team of experts, specially formulated rat poison pellets were sprinkled across every square inch of rat habitat. The island became rodent free in 2018. 

Histogram of extinct animals
Numbers of threatened and extinct bird (B), mammal (M), and reptile (R) species negatively affected by invasive mammalian predators. Gray bars indicate the total number of extinct and threatened species, and red bars indicate extinct species (including those classed as extinct in the wild). (IMG Courtesy - pnas.org)

While some of the characteristics of these areas are quite unique and allow alternative methods for rodent control, there is still a lot we can take away from these examples in our mission to eliminate rodents. The need to be proactive, to educate citizens and involve them in rodent control strategies, and conducting regular maintenance and management are all strategies that can be employed anywhere. And while we may not always be able to completely eliminate rats the way Alberta and the North West Island have, by employing these strategies we can go a long way in fighting the damage and destruction that rodents cause.

If you are looking for a proactive, chemical-free way to fight rodent infestations, contact us today. 

Continue reading

Our newsletter

Stay in the know!

Keep up to date on industry news and newest ecobloc releases!