Calgary filmmaker takes you on the road with Alberta’s rat patrol

Ted Stenson takes a deeper look at Alberta's rat patrol program and how it's kept the province rat-free for 70 years

Jamie Rothenburger, Assistant Professor, Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary. PHOTO COURTESY/ SARAH KOURY

For 70 years, Alberta’s waged a war against vermin common in al other parts of North America – and the world.

Rats.

Living Without Menace, a documentary made by Calgary-based filmmaker, Ted Stenson, examines Alberta’s storied rat control program.

According to Stenson, Living Without Menace explores the history and the future of the Rat Patrol. It’s a one-of-a-kind program that’s allowed Alberta to lay claim as the only inhabited place to stay rat-free.

“The documentary look at the history of this program and it also looks at sort of the future of invasive species and rat controls that are happening in some other parts of the world like New Zealand, where they’re trying to eliminate rats by the year 2050,” said Stenson.

According to Stenson, the success of the Rat Program motivated him to create the documentary, to learn more about it and tell others of the substantial outcomes of it.

“It’s something you kind of hear about, like, oh, this idea that Alberta is rat-free, the only referee place in the world,” he said.

“So, I just got curious about, learning more about the program and actually, kind of digging into why that is.”

The rat – human connection

Through the documentary, Stenson said he’s trying to convey the association between rats and human behaviour.

“Rats are something that humans generally don’t like. Rats are often associated with diseases or destruction, and that’s kind of a by-product of human behavior,” he said.

“As humans, when we look at some of these species and try to control or don’t like the impacts of any, it’s important to kind of look at our own behavior and our own responsibility in terms of the impacts of these things create.”

According to Stenson, audiences will experience the rat patrol in the fields as they do their work. There’s interviews with the workers, scientists and historians.

“These specialists will speak of some of the impacts of these invasive species, why rats have been villainized throughout human history and try to understand some of the reasons why humans try to control nature in this way,” said Stenson.

Living Without Menace will be Stenson’s first documentary as a writer and director.

Stenson will also be presenting a fictional film at Calgary’s International Film Festival on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022.

Living Without Menace will be released on CBC Gem on Sept. 23. It will also be broadcast on CBC television in Alberta and British Columbia on Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. 

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