Anchorage is no longer rat free

Posted: Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Anchorage can no longer claim to be the largest port city in the Northern Hemisphere without known rat infestations.

State biologist Rick Sinnott caught and kille dtwo Norway rats found living at a pond near a South Anchorage school. Professional exterminatiors hired by the city placed more traps at the scene Monday afternoon.

"We're concerned," said Chris Tofteberg, manager of the municipal food safety and sanitation program. "It sounds like they are domestic rats turning feral as we speak."

Crews from American Pest Management planned to set live and snap traps until at least a week passes without any more animals caught said operations manager Larry Jones.

The response was good news to resident Theresa Bayer, who discovered the rats scrambling from a culvert at a park near Diamond High School and later showed Sinnott a videotape of one foot-long rodent as proof.

"When we were feeding the ducks, the rats came swimming out of the water, and it was so gross." Bayer told the Anchorage Daily News.

Native to the Asian steppes, Norway rats have gradually spread around the globe by catching rides on ships and cargo. They cause billions of dollars in damage, spread disease, and drive bird species to local extinction on countless islands.

They are also known as common or brown rats.

"They're extremely resourceful and they're very durable," Toftberg said. "They're kind of like cockroaches and, once they get started, they're hard to get rid of."

As a result, Anchorage has a strict anti-rat law that makes it illega to imprt, buy, sell or breed any member of the Rattus genus without a permit from the health department. Violators can get hit with civil fines up to $1,000 and injunctions, as well as criminal fines up to $300.

No one in town currently has such permission, Tofteburg said. It wasn't clear Monday where theses rats came from, though their coloring suggests they were domestic or lab varieties.

"It's quite possible someone had them as pets and threw them out," he said.



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