SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. - Pat Reimer is hoping 13 is a lucky number for her and her husband in their battle against an unwelcome pest.
That was the date in September when the couple from Swift Current in southwestern Saskatchewan saw their last rat.
"That was our 67th one, but ... so far that's the last one," Reimer said. "Of course, I've been checking the traps every day ... and there's nothing been in the traps, so I'm thankful for that."
Reimer and her husband, Ike, own the Safari Inn and, like everyone else in Swift Current, they've been waging war against the rodents that invaded late last spring.
The infestation prompted the Cypress Health Region to issue a special rat advisory in August. People were warned that the Norway species posed a health hazard and could spread bacteria, viruses and parasites that could cause infections such as salmonella and rat-bite fever. Hantavirus was also a concern.
The problem was so bad that some people said they were bitten in their own beds. It made national news.
Concern spread along the road to southern Alberta, especially after a Norway rat was found in Calgary. The province prides itself on being "rat free."
Ike Reimer took to patrolling the area near his motel armed with bear spray in case he came face-to-face with a rat. He also urged the Swift Current to take more action to protect its reputation.
Pat Reimer said they think the problem is now under control.
"I think everybody just got working together. (The city) found out the problem was at the landfill and started baiting and everybody started setting traps. Everybody started working together and that was a good thing for our city.
"It's too bad it was a rat that did that."
Swift Current officials got some help in September when more than half a dozen provincial pest control officers paid a call.
Travis Quirk, the pest control co-ordinator, said the officers used their experience to help find the source of the infestation and eliminate it. Quirk said officers inspected "a very large portion" of homes and businesses in the city of 15,000 people.
"These pest control officers would pretty much just be walking yard to yard," said Quirk. "It was very thorough to try and figure out where all the hot spots are."
People in Swift Current had a lot of questions and were looking for ideas to tackle the rat problem, he added. The suggestions appear to be working. The city is down to about five rat calls a week and most of those are to remove dead ones.
"They're seeing less and less calls being reported as live rats, so that's a good thing," said Quirk.
"Live rat sightings will indicate that the rats are on the move. There may be a higher number in that area. If there aren't any rats being seen, then the population's probably under control. The poison's working."
City officials haven't let up, and rat activity at the dump is significantly down. Fewer rats in the landfill will mean fewer rats moving into the community, he said.
Reimer says she and her husband plan to keep traps out at the motel just in case.
"I think we'll keep that up all winter. We're not going to let our guard down now."
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