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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: farm agent declared war on rats

From our archives, 100 years ago

For the second time in a month, the Spokane County farm agent, J.R. Shinn, declared war on a rodent - this time, on the large Spokane rat.

He said that “the rodents are said to be a menace and have been known to threaten children.” He called them “big rats, with white tails, which … seemed to fear nothing.”

Shinn was fresh from waging war on ground squirrels, in which he offered prizes to schoolchildren who poisoned the most squirrel holes.

However, with the rats he believed that poison would not be the answer. Instead he planned to enlist “cats, dogs, traps, bait, ferrets” and even Boy Scouts in his Rat War. He suggested prizes to Boy Scouts who successfully trapped the most rats.

The rat menace appeared to be centered on the Main Avenue fill — “from the Spokane Club to the stadium,” meaning, apparently, Glover Field. Shinn claimed that “mothers are showing reluctance in letting their children use Main Avenue on the way to school.”

He said a successful Rat War must be fought on several fronts. Buildings must be rat-proofed. The rodents must be prevented from getting food from “the dumps and the sewer.” Fox terriers should be employed to hunt rats. And lots of traps — both “guillotine and cage” — should be set out.

Shinn recommended two particularly good baits: wienerwurst and fried bacon.

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