Thousands of mink released from a Stearns County farm have died.
That's according to Fur Commission USA, which represents the interests of mink farmers in the U.S. The group says concerned citizens and mink ranchers from across the Midwest have come to the area to try to find the 38,000 mink that were released from Lang Mink Farm in Eden Valley early Monday morning.
"Anyone who thinks they are helping the animals by doing this are severely misinformed," Michael Whelan, executive director of Fur Commission USA, said in a statement Tuesday. "This is a crime against the animals as much as against the Lang family."
Lots of mink have died, and will die
The group says thousands of mink have died from heat- and stress-related issues, and noted many more will continue to die.
The mink are domesticated, so they don't know how to live outside of a farm where they're cared for daily, the Fur Commission says. Plus, they're susceptible to diseases from other animals because they've never been in the wild before.
“If [the 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?" Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson told The Associated Press.
The Stearns County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident, and suspects an animal rights group is behind setting the mink loose. However, the Star Tribune says no group has claimed responsibility.
The Fur Commission says this type of incident can be prosecuted under the Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, noting the FBI is also investigating the incident.
The group has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for "the attack."
GoMN has reached out to the sheriff's office for more information on its investigation.
Mink in the wild are common in Minnesota
Wild mink are native to Minnesota. In fact, the Minnesota DNR says they're the most common water mammal meat eater in the state, and can be found on "nearly every wetland, lake, and creek in the state."
The DNR describes them as a "versatile predator" that's able to chase prey on land and in the water.