Nearly 40,000 domesticated American mink have been released into the wild by trespassers, and now a family-owned farm in Minnesota is scrambling to gather the small, semi-aquatic mammals. Authorities have deemed the incident “a disaster.”
Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson of Eden Valley is calling it “domestic terrorism.” The FBI has joined the investigation and have concluded that an exterior fence was dismantled in three spots by more than one person at Lang Farm, according to the St. Cloud Times.
Eden Valley is roughly 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis.
The crime took place between 10:30pm Sunday and 5:30am Monday. The business is saying it lost $750,000 dollars due to the released mink, according to KUSA.
The farm has 32 barns and around 38,000 mink lived in 20,000 cages, the SC Times reported.
According to the sheriff, hundreds of the furry critters have already died in the area, according to the Washington Post.
Evidence suggests the vandals parked about half a mile away from the farm on a township road. They then released the mink from their cages.
In most cases, domesticated mink will not survive in the wild due to the lack of natural survival skills. The ones that do survive could negatively affect the wildlife they interact with, Gudmundson said, according to KUSA.
Gudmundson noted the area the mink have been released into and pointed to the vicious nature of the small animal. He said they had been set free near a wildlife management area and on Tuesday morning, a large number lot of the mink had died already due to heat, stress and lack of water. Gudmundson believes that 10 chickens that were killed nearby probably died because of the mink.
“It’s a disaster,” he said.
The sheriff called out animal rights activists whom he suspects are the perpetrators.
“If they (perpetrators) actually cared about animals they wouldn’t release thousands of mink to die out in the heat. We’ve already got reports of chickens killed. Don’t they care about God’s chickens?” the Post reported.
On Monday the FBI arrived on the scene. There were no security cameras in the area to help with the investigation, though. “This isn’t going to be easy,” Gudmundson said, KUSA reported.
Some have cited the effect on the ecosystem. However, a local environmental expert, Fred Bengston, who is an area wildlife manager for the Sauk Rapids Department of Natural Resources office, said, “we’re not anticipating any long-term significant impact.”
“They’re dependent on people,” Bengston said. “The odds of most of them making it, even in the summertime, is not too high.”