The call for city officials to fix the rat problem in Swift Current, Sask. — whatever it takes — was a recurring theme at a meeting attended by 400 people Wednesday night.
It was the second packed meeting at the Credit Union iPlex in two nights to discuss the rodent infestation.
The night before, at a meeting organized by the city, residents were told that everybody has to join in the fight to eliminate rats, not just city hall.
The crowd was told by rat-control experts that citizens have to do everything they can on their own properties to keep rat numbers down.
The advice includes things like picking up apples and sealing garbage containers.
But on Wednesday night, longtime resident Phoebe Bunnell, 76, said the city needs to take the lead.
"It won't be that simple for us to investigate our property, to wash it down with bleach and on and on," she said. "The simple solution would be to hire professionals to do this and to charge us individually."
Problem started in June
The city of 15,000 in the southwest part of the province has been dealing with an influx of the rodents since June.
The Cypress Health region said it has received reports of people being bitten in their beds. According to Dr. David Torr, the health region's chief medical health officer, only a few people have experienced rat bites but that's not the only health issue.
"They get into your household and get into food that's not properly stored," he said. "They can contaminate that food and thereby bring infections and illness in the community."
For months, rats been the talk of the town. Rat traps have been snapped up at the stores. Officials in Alberta, a province that bills itself as rat-free, have been keeping a close eye along the border.
There has been no definitive explanation of why the Swift Current rat numbers multiplied the way they did, although various theories have been suggested.
Some point to alleged problems with the city landfill. Others say the rats came to Swift Current looking for water.
Some residents say the phenomenon has been overblown and media attention is giving Swift Current a bad name that could jeopardize economic development.
The city has received more than 270 calls from people who've spotted live or dead rats and want them disposed of.
In the past two days, residents have heard that the city has provided new training to staff to find and eliminate rats. They've seen a colour-coded map of the city showing dots where rats have been found.
In a show of hands Wednesday at the iPlex, the overwhelming majority said they were in favour of the city hiring a professional pest control company, no matter what the cost.
Mayor Sandy Larson was not present, but city councillors who were there say they will take that message back to city hall.