EDEN VALLEY, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota mink farm says 15,000 mink have died after unknown culprits released them from their cages earlier this week.
The Stearns County Sheriff's Office says that of approximately 38,000 mink released, 14,000 of the animals are unaccounted for.
Sheriff Don Gudmundson has said he believes animal rights activists released the mink, although no one has been arrested. He said he believes more than one person dismantled the exterior fence at Lang Fur Farms and released the mink from their cages.
The mink have died from heat, stress and dehydration, said Fur Commission USA Executive Director Michael Whelan. Most of the animals that died were young and hadn't yet been weaned from their mothers.
The domesticated animals aren't equipped to live outside the farm environment where they receive food and water daily, he said.
Many of the animals that survived continue to suffer from dehydration and stress. Whelan said he expects more will die within the coming weeks.
"Anyone who thinks they are helping the animals by doing this are severely misinformed," Whelan said. "This is a crime against the animals as much as against the Lang family."
The Lang family has been raising mink for four generations.
The crime falls under the Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act statute and is being investigated by the Stearns County Sheriff's office and the FBI, Whelan said.
Fur Commission USA is offering a $10,000 reward and Tri-County Crime Stoppers is offering $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Residents who spot mink running loose in the area are warned not to approach them. Instead residents are encouraged to notify Lang Farms so an experienced mink handler can recapture the animal.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com