Van Wert, Ohio — In a Nov. 15 pre-dawn breaking-and-entering incident, an animal rights activist organization is believed to have released between 25,000 and 40,000 domestic mink from a fur ranch near Van Wert, Ohio.
The group allegedly spraypainted a threat to return again to the site and took credit for similar break-ins in southern Michigan and Ohio, most notably the release of 1,000 mink in Massillon on Nov. 8. The group allegedly spray-painted the initials “ALF,” which stands for Animal Liberation Front.
The owners of Lion Farms USA near Van Wert estimated their losses from the act to total approximately $1.6 million. That includes the loss of livestock, destroyed fences and barns, graffiti clean-up costs, and time spent recapturing the animals that remained on site.
Those who have been following the fur markets have witnessed the chronically low mink pelt prices that already have resulted in mass liquidations of mink ranches worldwide. Currently, furriers are sitting on a glut of unsold ranch mink “put up” pelt inventories.
Some causes are ever-changing fashion whims, bankruptcy of some of the fur-buying wholesale companies, COVID- 19-related pauses in overseas garment-making facilities, and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – two nations that are ardent fur wearers.
As many as threefourths of the mink were recaptured by ranch staff and returned to the facility.
— Lion Farms company spokesman
The fur that grows on selectively-bred ranch mink provide exquisite beauty and warmth and are a renewable resource, as opposed to the plastic, fake “faux” fur that comes from finite oil deposits.
Even many people who oppose the wearing of fur understand that this incident did these domesticated mink few favors. In many cases, the freedom of the mink lasted only minutes.
So many of the farmed mink quickly were killed on nearby U.S. Route 127 that the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office requested a snowplow to clear the pavement of the greasy carcasses that were creating hazardous conditions for motorists.
A company spokesman shared the news that as many as three-fourths of the mink that were turned loose remained at the facility and were recaptured by ranch staff.
Nearby, several opportunistic people spent the day targeting the semi-valuable furbearers with rifles and pistols. One person was even seen using a golf club while repeatedly kicking through a cattail-lined ditch and watching for movement through corn stubble fields.
One person who was interviewed on the first day by a Toledo TV 11 (CBS) news crew had shot a double-handful of the escapees, citing his concerns for his friend’s chickens and claiming to be “performing a public service” while also wondering aloud where he could cash in their “$40” pelts.
On Nov. 21-22, the same TV station reported that a mink was killed after being caught in the act of decimating an entire flock of 14 laying hens in a chicken coop 12 miles away from the ranch. Another mink was witnessed running through downtown Van Wert. Earlier in the week, another one reportedly fought with a small dog.
Unfortunately, many of the mink that disperse will find it difficult to get enough prey, given the densities that were thrust upon the local ecosystem all at once and their unpracticed hunting skills.
Owls, hawks, and canine predators will find these domesticated animals easier prey than their common wild mink counterparts, which are currently abundant across the state.
Fur buyers are only offering trappers between $4 and $12 for wild mink this season because of the glut of ranch mink. Smaller, silkier females bring $4 to $8, while larger, but coarser-furred, males pay $8 to $12, depending upon size and fur thickness.
Ranch mink have been selectively bred to exhibit lush, specific fur colors normally not seen in wild mink populations and grow much larger, making them easier to match while using fewer pelts during garment construction.
Fur trappers who live near the site of this incident might well benefit from these higher-value mink for years to come.
Depending upon their color, that may include pearl, white, platinum, natural, black, black cross, silver blue, topal, dawn blue iris, palomino, and others, are listed for sale on the Moscow Hide and Fur retail sales site at $38 to $150 apiece.
Elsewhere, when North American mink ranchers have gone out of business, some of their unnaturally-colored specimens that were voluntarily released lived long enough to breed with some of the wild population.
They produced offspring that exhibited novel colors until the dominant genes in the more abundant wild population eventually led to the disappearance of all but the natural, predominantly brown shades. The breeding season for mink in Ohio is typically in early March.