Loose mink causes a chain reaction in Van Wert’s ecosystem

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Fur Commission USA executive director Challis Hobbs said many minks would create a negative domino effect on the local ecosystem.

VAN WERT COUNTY, Ohio – Owners of Lion Farms USA, the mink farm in Van Wert, Ohio, which lost tens of thousands of mink Tuesday due to a break-in, said about 30,000 mink, or around 80%, have been accounted for, leaving perhaps another 10,000 still at large.

Fur Commission USA executive director Challis Hobbs said many minks would create a negative domino effect on the local ecosystem.

“Residents are in a bad spot, the mink themselves are in a bad spot, the farmers. There’s no good scenario,” Hobbs said.

He said there are currently more than 100 mink farms in 12 US states. Together they raise about 1.5 million mink. With the typical price of a mink around $40, Lion’s losses are not a drop in the ocean.

“You’re looking at $1.6 million being the loss of cattle, that’s just the loss of cattle,” Hobbs said. “We’re not talking about vandalism, graffiti, broken fences, torn cages, vandalized barns.”

He believes the farm was attacked by militants who have also damaged two other farms in Ohio and one in Michigan over the past three weeks.

Allision Aye, executive director of Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, said mink are aggressive hunters ready to take on any animal up to twice their size.

Hobbs said these mink eat about 1.5 pounds of feed per day, which puts the pets of area residents and the livestock of local farmers at risk.

“At 10,000 mink, you’re talking about 1,600 chickens a day that they would need to find,” Hobbs said.

Damage to the ecosystem will not only affect livestock either. Minks disrupt the local food chain.

“Now you’re eliminating rodents, little squirrels, chipmunks and things like that,” Aye said. “You have raptors and the other animals that normally feed on them that will leave that area to find food elsewhere.”

And since minks are domesticated, they lack wildlife survival skills. None of them know how to find shelter or find water in the area. Aye and Hobbs said the activists they believe freed the mink did more harm than good.

“The intention was to save these animals,” Aye said. “However, what they didn’t think about was the fact that those mink on that fur farm are no longer wild animals. They are technically pets.”

Hobbs said the escaped animals didn’t have long to live.

“There really is a small window of time here,” he said. “Three days with this kind of weather, this kind of exposure to the elements and difficult access to water, they’ll all be dead,” Hobbs said.

Currently, local hunters kill mink in the wild. Nature’s Nursery will not take any of these minks as they are not wild. Lion Farms workers also set traps in hopes of retrieving lost livestock.

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