To Catch a Rat

CBRM has a rat problem. To reduce the rat population, it’s important to understand rats. First and foremost, rats are really, really smart (and not as dirty as people think)! Smart rats call for smart solutions. Learn more about rats from this episode of CBC’s The Nature of Things.

Most importantly: we can’t leave it up to each individual household to solve this problem. That would be like asking each person to deal with climate change on their own. This is impossible. If one person cleans up their property, the rats will simply move elsewhere. 

Rat problems require collective action led by government. 

What can CBRM do now? 

We have to cut off rats’ food supply. That means better control and regulation of food waste with these 3 actionable plans:

  1. eliminate plastic compost bins. Rats chew through plastic easily. Replace plastic bins with metal
  1. prevent grocery stores and restaurants from throwing out food. Restaurants and grocery stores need to be included in municipal compost collection. Food is ending up in dumpsters across CBRM—and rats feast on this food1
  1. ban the feeding of wild birds. When we feed wild birds, we feed rats. We must stop throwing bread and other food scraps out to birds, both in our yards and in our parks. Firstly, the food is not healthy for birds. Secondly, this will also help prevent the spread of avian flu

What can CBRM do in the future?

By cutting off food supply, the population of rats will rapidly diminish. Once the population is diminished, we can work on cleaning up the neglected and abandoned areas of CBRM where rats live and thrive. 

How can we do this? 

  1. Provide grants and programs for people to clean up and repair homes, outbuildings, and properties, and to tow away abandoned vehicles. Fines don’t work. Neglected properties are often the result of mental and physical health issue, old age, and poverty. As well, properties are increasingly being damaged in severe weather events. Why fine someone who cannot afford to pay fines? Instead, we need to work with people to help them clean up their properties and build better infrastructure. 
  1. Education. CBRM needs to educate people about rats and how to prevent them.
  1. Provide mental health support.

Can we totally eliminate rats like Alberta?

Simply: no. Alberta has one major advantage we don’t have: it’s a land-locked province. Cape Breton and Nova Scotia have many ports that bring in ships that bring in rats. This is how we got rats in the first place! Completely eliminating rats would take the effort of every municipality in the Maritime region, again, an impossible task.

To learn how Alberta eliminated rats (and learn why it can’t be done here), listen to the Decoder Ring podcast episode, “The Alberta Rat War.”

1When restaurants closed during COVID lockdowns, rats moved into residential areas in search of food. That’s why we’re now seeing an increase in the number of rats in our neighbourhoods.

All Tucked In

Applying mindful laziness to your fall garden clean-up

I’m a lazy gardener. I don’t pull weeds. I don’t harvest the kale and lettuce that’s going to seed. I don’t till the plot where I’m planning on planting fall vegetables. That’s too much work, it’s way too hot, and, besides, the bees enjoy the weeds and kale flowers, and my chickens will gladly do the tilling for me. 

Read more


Banish blandness by planting a wide selection of herbs

The first food I ever attempted to grow was herbs. One winter while living in Toronto, I bought some small clay pots, soil, and chive seeds. I planted the seeds, watered them, placed them on my south-facing windowsill, and waited. My mouth watered at the thought of adding fresh chives to my soups, rice, eggs, and salad.  

Read more

How to Garden in January

Harvesting vegetables from a winter garden takes a bit of planning: gardening in January really means doing the bulk of the gardening before January. That means planting the right veggies at the right time of year. It means paying attention to maturity dates and hours of sunlight each day. Once sunlight drops below 10 hours per day (usually around mid-November in Cape Breton until mid-February), everything stops growing. The trick is to get everything in the ground with some growth on before then.

Read more