Authorities are warning residents in northwest Ohio to be on the lookout after vandals broke into a farm and released up to 40,000 minks into the wild over night on Wednesday.
An unknown number of suspects destroyed fencing at the farm before letting the “bothersome pests” free, the sheriff’s office said.
It warned local residents and farmers that minks, which grow up to 18 inches (45cms) in length, are carnivorous mammals that “stick to a diet of fresh kills” and can prey on much bigger animals.
“They regularly hunt prey bigger than themselves. As a result, they can be a bothersome pest for homeowners, livestock owners, and property managers. Minks have proven to be especially costly and problematic for poultry ranchers as well as homeowners with ornamental ponds filled with koi and other fish,” the sheriff’s office said.
Sheriff’s said licensed trappers were available to help catch “nuisance animals”.
The unlawful release is under investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies including the Ohio Highway Patrol, Paulding County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio Department of Natural Resource, Ohio Emergency Management Agency, and Ohio Department of Transportation.
Millions of minks are farmed and culled every year in the United States to make sought-after white fur coats. According to Fur Commission USA, there are 275 mink farms in 23 states that generate three million pelts annually.
Animal activists describe mink farming as cruel and lobby governments to ban the practice.
The Animal Liberation Front last week claimed credit for releasing 1,000 minks from a separate farm in Ohio in a media statement. The group, which describes itself as a “leaderless, decentralised political and social resistance movement”, said activists had also visited other mink farms in Ohio but found “there were no survivors”.
“A harsh reminder to take decisive action as soon as you can. We hope this reminds you... to destroy all cages,” the group noted.
In a statement to The Independent, the Animal Liberation Front said: “While we are very pleased to hear about a possible third liberation of captive mink this month, we have as yet not received a claim for the action.
“If it was indeed a release of captive mink slated for imminent slaughter at the hands of their captors, we will likely receive an anonymous communique claiming the action sometime in the coming days.”
In 2020, the Danish government ordered all of the country’s 17 million minks must be culled after a Covid outbreak.
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