Name that rat: MD of Bonnyville seeks title for new resident rodent

There is a new face in the fight to keep Alberta rat-free. And it has black beady eyes and long whiskers.

The taxidermied Norway rat now on display in the front entryway of the Municipal District of Bonnyville public works building was once an unwelcome invader.

But now the MD is using the animal to raise public awareness about rats. It is also asking Albertans to help give their new resident rodent a name.

"It's for educational purposes, so people can actually see what a Norway rat looks like," said Kirby Claybert, pest control officer for the region. "Because Alberta's rat-free, so many people in their lifetime have never seen a Norway rat, or what it looks like."

'It just snowballed'

The winner of the Name the Rat contest will get a $100 gift card, some Bonnyville-branded swag and a chance to get a photograph taken with the unlucky creature, which was exterminated along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

They've had more than 250 submissions in less than a week, with suggestions including Rupert, Splinter and Ratty McRatface. 

"I'm very surprised at how it just took off," Claybert said. "We thought it would be just a few people, but it just snowballed. And we're literally getting hundreds of requests for names.

"A few of them I had a really good laugh at, but I'm going to leave it everybody to pick their own." 

'Norway rats are actually the worst'

Alberta has zero tolerance for rats and has prided itself for being rat-free for decades.

The province maintains a rat-control zone 600 kilometres long and 70 kilometres wide along its eastern border. A team of eight pest-control officers, armed with shotguns and poison, dutifully inspect the buffer zone for any trace of an invasion.

In the MD of Bonnyville's war against the unwelcome rodents, Claybert is its single soldier. Despite his soft-spoken demeanour, he has a take-no-prisoners approach to doing his job. 

For him, it's a search-and-destroy mission.

"Norway rats are actually the worst," he said. "They are the biggest carriers of disease and they are the most destructive of all the rats ... They can be devastating to farms and, in some cases, if they get loose into towns, they can eat right through a concrete foundation.

"There's three places in the world that are rat-free — that's the Arctic, the Antarctic and Alberta, and we intend to keep it that way."