08/21/2012 04:40 EDT | Updated 10/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Fred Crittenden, Medicine Hat Official, Says Rats Relocating From Landfill To City

This undated photo courtesy of Kimberly Jackson shows Flutterby at Kimberly Jackson's home in Falmouth, Maine. In contrast to their icky reputation, owners say rats are playful, affectionate and smart. Look past your preconceptions, they say, and you might just fall in love. (AP Photo/Kimberly Jackson)

MEDICINE HAT - An official for Medicine Hat in southeastern Alberta says the rat population found in the city's landfill appears to be spreading to cushier digs.

Bylaw superintendent Fred Crittenden says the rodents are now being discovered in residential areas.

All appear to be the same species as the more than 80 Norway rats that have been found in the dump since earlier this month.

Crittenden says there have been dozens of complaints.

"So far ... we've have about 31 or 32 potential sightings. We've been able to confirm about 13 of those so far," he said Tuesday.

"We've had confirmed sightings all over the city and we've actually got photos of them or we've picked them up."

Most of the pests, however, have been found in an area close to the South Saskatchewan River.

Crittenden said traps will be put up around the city.

"Our pest control company is setting up bait stations at various locations that we feel they are most likely to migrate to," he said. "Those are going to be checked on a regular basis to see what kind of activity we're having on them."

Residents with pets don't have to worry because the bait is only poisonous to the rats.

Alberta's agriculture minister announced last week that more than a dozen Norway rats had been discovered and killed at Medicine Hat's dump. That number has been growing by the day, although the rate has slowed down.

On Friday, Calgary officials revealed that a badly decomposed rat had been found in a southeast neighbourhood in their city. They weren't sure whether the animal had been a pet or stowed away on a truck coming from elsewhere.

Calgary is a few hours drive west of Medicine Hat.

Alberta prides itself on being rat-free and has only seen isolated cases since the 1950s. Pet rats are forbidden under provincial law and rat sightings are treated with the utmost urgency.

The province estimates its rat control measures have prevented what would have been $1 billion in rodent-caused damage over the last 50 years.

(CHAT TV, The Canadian Press)

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