Excerpt from Rats by Robert Sullivan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants

by Robert Sullivan

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  • First Published:
    Apr 2004, 256 pages
    Apr 2005, 256 pages

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By 1926, Rattus norvegicus was in every state in America. It pushed out black rats everywhere, though a small colony of black rats held on in New England for many years. The last state to be seeded by Rattus norvegicus was Montana. Several early rat settlements in Montana failed or were wiped out with poisons and traps, but the brown rat filially colonized Lewistown in 1920, and in 1938, the dump in Missoula was the site of an escaped colony of laboratory rats, domesticated Rattus norvegicus. It was not easy for the brown rat to settle Montana. "In general it appears that rats find extension in their range difficult in Montana and that in all likelihood this difficulty is due to the sparseness of the population," a biologist in Bozeman wrote. Brown rats also eventually spread to all the provinces of Canada, with the exception of Alberta, where in 1950 they were reported on the southeast border but were then repelled by an intensive government rat control program, one of the most impressive rat-control programs in the world. Alberta still considers itse1£ in the words of the province's agricultural department, "an essentially rat-free province."

Little is written about the early settlement of Rattus noroegicus in America. Most reports state that the very first Rattus noroegicus arrived in America in the first year of the Revolution, then moved out into the country, a manifest infestation. One of their first landings was most likely New York City.

>From Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants. Chapter 1, pages 1-14. Copyright Robert Sullivan 2004. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Bloomsbury.

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