Alberta may have just lost its reputation of being rat-free.
Two Calgary recycling plants have been infested with the pests, but according to one of them, the situation is under control.
Cascades Recovery+, a contractor that sorts recycled material from curbside collection in the city, confirmed the presence of Norway rats at its facility in southeast Calgary.
The province said the other impacted facility is Capital Paper Recycling, just a few blocks away in the same industrial area.
"The issue is under control and being managed onsite," said Hugo D'Amours, the vice-president of communications, public affairs and sustainability at Cascades Recovery+.
D'Amours said that since the containers or packaging placed in blue bins may contain food residue, there's always a chance that rats will be transported to the sorting facility.
"With about 160 trucks coming in every day, there's always a risk," he said.
"It's important to remind Calgarians and those in the Calgary region to rinse recyclables. All recyclables must be empty, clean and dry — this will help reduce the food sources that the rats are attracted to."
The province considers a rat infestation to be when there is more than one rat.
Minimal risk for nearby businesses, says official
While the two facilities that have rats are in close proximity to each other, Karen Wickerson, the province's rat and pest specialist, said there is little risk to other businesses in the area.
"There's no other place that they really want to go because they have everything … they have a warm, safe place to live and they have a food source," Wickerson said.
She added that the control program has been monitoring both facilities on the inside and the outside and has set up bait stations outside of them.
A rat-free history
The province's rat-free status means there is no resident population of rats and they are not allowed to establish themselves — but does not mean Alberta never get rats.
Poster released by the Alberta Department of Public Health circa 1948. (A17202b/Provincial Archives of Alberta)
According to the provincial government, Albertans have lived without the menace of rats since 1950, when the Rat Control Program was established.
"Small infestations occasionally occur," reads a statement on the government's website. "But when found, the rats are isolated and eradicated through proven control methods."
Alberta has maintained a Rat Control Zone along the eastern border with Saskatchewan since the early 1950s.
Between 1953 and 1959, Alberta's Rat Control Program evolved into its current structure, and pest control inspectors were appointed by municipalities.
"The program was established with an agricultural focus because the concern was them coming in from Saskatchewan and the damage they would do to agriculture," Wickerson said.
"We know that the damage they cause can cost millions of dollars and particularly in urban areas."