In a first for the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, it’s taking care of a baby bushy-tailed woodrat that “hitched” a ride to Calgary in a vehicle returning from a trip to the mountains.
Staff have helped adult woodrats before, but this is the first time in the facility’s 24-year history that they’ve looked after a baby.
This species of rodent, also known as a packrat, is the only native rat found in Canada.
Although the discovery of any rat can cause alarm in a province that proudly declares itself “rat-free,” this isn’t that type of rat. Alberta has operated a ban on Norwegian rats since the 1950s, due to their unparalleled ability to devastate crops and food stores.
The stowaway woodrat arrived in Calgary with a family who had gone camping earlier this month. They found the baby rodent in the spare tire after hearing it crying
Holly Duvall, executive director of the institute, said it appears the mom had nested in the vehicle but there were no signs of siblings or the mother.
Weighing just 58 grams, the female rat was about 15 days old and her eyes were still closed.
The wildlife facility is bottle feeding her and will continue to look after the pup until she is able to survive on her own. Then the little critter will be released back in the mountains.
“She is thriving in care and we are hopeful she can be returned back to the wild this summer,” the institute said in a news release.
There are nearly 200 animals currently in care at the facility near Madden, which is 35 kilometres north of Calgary.
Previous woodrats that have stayed at the facility were adults who also arrived from the mountains after stowing away in a vehicle.
The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation was established in 1993. It rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife found in southern Alberta.