Rodents

On land or in water, in rural or urban areas, rodents can be a nuisance throughout Strathcona County. Identify some of the common rodents you may find around your property, along with some tips for preventing, controlling or eliminating them.

Image showing the house mouse, white-footed mouse or deer mouse and the field mouse or vole

Mice and Voles

Populations of mice and voles fluctuate from year to year. A wet summer can provide extra food sources and may result in higher populations of these species in the fall and through the winter.

Images shown from top to bottom: House mouse, field mouse or vole, and White-footed mouse or deer mouse.

Behaviour

Mouse signs

  • Scampering or scratching sounds in the walls at night
  • Signs of gnawing or chewing
  • Droppings
  • Burrows or holes around foundation walls
  • Tracks on dusty surfaces
  • Sighting of a mouse

Vole tunnelsVole signs

  • Bark removed from base of a tree
  • Tunnels on lawns in the spring (see picture)
  • Small piles of brownish droppings

Management

Populations of these species can grow very quickly, so control measures should be used as soon as an infestation is suspected.

  • Check local hardware stores or farm supply stores for various options to control rodents.
  • If using traps, raisins are the best bait to use for traps. The raisin can be jammed into the trigger of a trap and the mouse will have to work at getting it out. Set the trap with the trigger closest to the wall for best results.

Protect your property

To help prevent or limit mice and voles on your property follow these helpful tips.

Take away hiding and nesting places

  • Mow grass frequently
  • Remove excess vegetation and debris from the base of trees and shrubs
  • Seal holes and cracks in building foundations
  • Keep boxes away from walls in storage rooms

Remove potential food sources

  • Store pet food and bird seed in sealed containers
  • Remove spilled bird seed from beneath feeders
  • Remove fallen fruit and garden items

More information: Download our brochure for more details on identifying and managing mice and voles.


Image of a muskrat by the water

Muskrats

Muskrats are typically 40 to 60 cm long and weigh anywhere from 680 grams to 1.8 kg. They have a thick cover of short brown fur and flat, scaled tails that make up almost half of their length. Muskrat tracks are easy to identify because their tail drags through the dirt behind them.

Behaviour

Muskrats have a semi-aquatic life, and are often found near wetlands, lakes, rivers and ponds.

  • They typically live in groups within extensive underground burrows.
  • Muskrats tend to feed on aquatic vegetation, but occasionally eat small marine animals; in turn, muskrats are an important food source for a number of other animals, including foxes, coyotes and birds of prey.
  • They are most active at dusk, dawn or during the night.
  • Muskrats can mate several times a year between March and September, giving birth to litters of three to seven kits a month after mating.

Management

Wire netting can be used to protect vulnerable water banks. Simply lay the netting across the banks, at least four feet beneath the waterline and two feet above, to prevent muskrats from tunnelling into the shore. Trapping is a labour-intensive, but potentially effective method of managing muskrats.

Transportation and Agriculture Services assists residents by offering to live trap and remove animals affecting agriculture and infrastructure. A fee of $50.00+GST is charged for a two-week trap rental period. The trap is delivered to the residence, set and maintained by pest inspectors, with the resident observing and reporting a capture.

Note: Residents require a damage control permit licence issued by the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch should they endeavour to remove these species themselves.


Image of a pocket gopher in it's hole

Pocket Gophers

Alberta's only species of pocket gopher—the northern pocket gopher—varies in size from 15 to 25 cm. Their fur is fine and soft, usually steel grey in colour on their back and slightly lighter on their belly.

Pocket gophers are vegetation consuming, burrowing rodents that are generally confused with moles, though insect-eating moles are not present in Alberta.

Behaviour

Pocket gophers live in a burrow system that can cover an area of 18 to 185 square metres (200 to 2,000 square feet). Short, sloping lateral tunnels connect the main burrow system and are created to push the dirt to the surface when they are building the main tunnel.

Mound of dirt that is a sign of pocket gophers

Mounds of fresh soil are the best sign of pocket gophers’ presence. Typically, mounds are kidney-shaped when viewed from above. The hole, which is off to one side of the mound, is usually plugged.

Pocket gophers do not hibernate and are active year round.

Management

Pocket gophers are controlled by several natural predators from the weasel family, canid family, and owls and hawks. In certain situations, other means of control may be needed. The sooner you detect their presence and take control measures, the more successful your efforts will be.

Trapping is a safe and effective method to control pocket gophers.

More information: Download our brochure to learn more about identifying and trapping gophers.


Image of the Richardson's ground squirrel

Richardson's Ground Squirrel

Richardson's Ground Squirrels (commonly referred to as gophers), can create serious problems in our rural areas.

Behaviour

High populations of these pests compete with livestock for forage, destroy food crops and damage golf courses or lawns. Their burrows can weaken ditch banks, making them unsafe for farm machinery. And the mounds of soil from their burrows cover and kill vegetation, and can damage haying machinery. Some ground squirrels prey on the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds.

Management

There are several rodenticides registered for the control of gophers. When using any rodenticide, make sure to read and follow instructions on the label closely.

More information: Download our brochure for more details on identifying and managing gophers.


Image of a squirrel sitting on a tree trunk

Squirrels

Red squirrels are small rodents, weighing up to 250 grams. They typically measure 30 centimetres, with their tail making up nearly half this length.

Behaviour

Red squirrels mainly eat nuts and seeds (especially those of spruce and pine cones), as well as flowers, mushrooms, fruits and insects. Squirrels have adapted well to living around humans, with houses, garages and sheds providing warm, comfortable places to live. They can chew holes in wood, remove insulation and gnaw on wires.

Squirrels are active during the day and are very territorial. They do not hibernate.

Management

To prevent squirrels from moving in, cover any holes with a flexible wire-mesh material. Extend the mesh beyond the hole so they cannot chew in beside it. Wait for any squirrels to leave the building before sealing the entrance and avoid sealing the building before the young leave the nest.

Transportation and Agriculture Services assists residents by offering live traps for rental - $25.00 + GST for a two-week period.

When relocating squirrels, choose somewhere like a natural area or spruce tree stand that is away from other residences and offers a natural source of food. Please note that residents are responsible for the relocation).

More information: Download our brochure for more details on identifying and managing squirrels.


Image of a rat sitting on grass

Rats

Alberta has been rat free for over 50 years, thanks to the vigilance of its residents and the Alberta Rat Control Program. Rats are a declared pest under the Alberta Agriculture Pest Act; it is illegal for Albertan's to keep rats of any variety as pets or pet food.

The regulations of the Act require that all persons and municipalities, rural and urban alike, are to take active measures to eradicate this pest.

Since 1950, Alberta Agriculture has supervised and coordinated a rural-based Norway Rat Control Program that has essentially kept the province rat free. Strong public support and citizen participation, has made this world-renowned program successful.

Rats are often confused with:

  • Northern pocket gophers (moles) 
  • Muskrats 
  • Richardson’s ground squirrels

Alberta Agriculture has detailed information about rats, including appearance, behaviour and history in Alberta.

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Last updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Page ID: 50141