Rats have been a problem for farmers ever since there have been farmers. On this date in 1916, farmers in the Minot area were complaining about rats. The Ward County Independent reported that this was a recent development. Farmers reported that one day they didn’t have any rats at all, but the next day there were large numbers. The rats had apparently multiplied at an alarming rate, infesting large expanse of territory.
Farmers theorized that the rats were coming from the city, saying they had probably been brought in by immigrants. But of greater concern now was how to get rid of them. One farmer said he used wire cage traps, regularly catching eight to ten rats per night. But it appeared to make little difference, as there seemed to be just as many rats the next day.
North Dakota was not the only state dealing with a rat crisis. California had an even worse infestation. The California rats carried Bubonic plague. The Parke, Davis Company created the Azoa rat virus which could be put into bait for the rats. An infected rat could in turn spread the deadly virus to other rats. The company assured the public that the virus was harmless to any animal other than rats and mice. It could be safely used around the farm with no danger to dogs, cats, or other farm animals. It was not certain, however, that it would be effective in North Dakota. It worked very well in California, but had no effect on a different species of rat in British Columbia.
The Independent said it was past time to find a solution to the rat problem. One possibility was to put cement floors in barns and grain bins, but that would come with a considerable cost. Some types of poison were effective, but had to be handled with great care. The newspaper hoped that a long-term solution could be found.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Ward County Independent. “Rats!” 4 May, 1916.