Although Homer is not known to have a breeding population yet, five rats showed up in town in the fall of 2005.
Photo: Bill Scott
Defending Your Harbor
Harbors, airports, and all shipping facilities are gateways for accidental rat introductions. Hitch-hiking rats can arrive on all kinds of boats and barges, on trucks and in shipments. Active trapping programs such as those maintained by the people of the Pribilof Islands need to be in place in all these facilities. Vigilance must be on-going as the rat threat will not go away. Mice can also easily come in on food shipments or any kind of freight.
Don’t Export Your Problem
If your harbor has rats, they could spread to rat-free towns or even uninhabited island wildlife refuges by hitch-hiking on visiting boats. Rats eat birds, chicks and eggs and could decimate seabird colonies. Your harbor rats could damage the gear and boats of your own harbor users. All ratty harbors need to have on-going rat control to protect your own users and the rest of Alaska.
Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, with its sizeable population of rats, sits in the midst of wildlife rich, rat-free, islands of the Aleutian chain and the Pribilofs.
Housemates from Hell
Rats, like all rodents, must chew. Everything in your house, office, warehouse or restaurant is fair game from furniture, to carpeting, to insulation and worst of all – wiring, which can lead to rat caused fires! They will eat your stored food and contaminate your kitchen with droppings and urine. Rats carry a variety of diseases that can be passed to humans. Click on the Center for Disease Control to learn tips for rat-proofing your house and all about rat borne disease.
Pet Rats? Not in Alaska!
It is illegal to possess any kind of rat in the municipality of Anchorage. The exceptions are scientific organizations under permit to the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services. See Anchorage ’s ordinance. In the rest of the state, it is illegal to possess any rats other than genuine albino white rats. Alaska has taken a tough line on pet rats because we are the only state left without a huge rat problem. We need to keep it that way. Today’s pet may be tomorrow’s escapee or, worse yet, released to the wild by an unknowing or uncaring owner. As recently as January of 2007, pet rats were found loose near an open cage at Anchorage International Airport. It is unclear who released these rats or why but had they not been found and killed, the damage to planes or airport facilities could have been horrific. Illegal rat selling, pet rats or any rat sightings need to be reported. Our Contacts page tells you how to report rats.
Who Is Keeping Your Town Safe?
This is a good question for you to ask. Most harbors do not maintain rat defenses or rat control programs. Most municipalities and village governments do not have active programs. In Anchorage, the Food Safety & Sanitation Program of the City takes the lead in responding to rat sightings. Kodiak Harbor has been active in controlling rats. Find out what is going on in your town.
The communities of St. Paul and St. George, working with partners, started an aggressive island defense program which is a model for Alaska. On both islands, Ecosystem Conservation Offices of the Tribal governments maintain a series of bait stations throughout their harbors and the dump with the goal of stopping any rat that jumps ship. In 15 years of maintaining the traps, St. Paul has caught 6 rats which confirm that rats are moving between ports on boats. In addition, St. George and St. Paul created city ordinances banning any ships with a rat aboard from city waters and the city dock. The cities can inspect vessels and have ejected vessels from the harbors. Local commercial fish processors are required to have rodent prevention programs, and the Tribes offer rat prevention kits to boats. So far, this strategy has worked in protecting the towns and the three million seabirds and nearly a million fur seals on the islands.
Mark Rukovishnikoff on rat patrol on St. Paul Island