Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Ohio mink ranch at heart of vandalism, release closes

The Lion Farm USA mink ranch in Van Wert County closed at the end of December. The facility was the target of animal rights activists in November. (Photo by Mike Mainhart)

Van Wert, Ohio — Perhaps because of the attack by animal rights activists or a combination of reasons seen throughout the fur industry, the Lion Farm USA mink ranch in Van Wert County announced its closure effective Dec. 23, 2022.

The ranch’s manager, Eddie Meyer, was reported by the Delphos Herald to have said that from what he understood the owner of the property did or was going to sell the ranch to Cooper Farms, which raises turkeys nearby. No other details were made available.

In a Nov. 15 pre-dawn breaking and entering criminal offense, an animal rights organization is alleged to have released between 25,000 and 40,000 domestic mink from the fur ranch near Van Wert, Ohio (Ohio Outdoor News, Dec. 9, 2022). The group spray-painted the initials “ALF” on one of the facility’s buildings. ALF stands for the Animal Liberation Front.

There was concern that while the domestic mink were running free from the November release by animal activists, those which were re-captured could have been exposed to diseases that often spread rapidly within a confined herd, including new stock if brought into the facility.

Yet, for reasons not explained, the recaptured stock was culled and not used for their fur, even though this is the time of year when the fur is prime. Perhaps it was damaged in some manner during their departure from the facility.

So, as opposed to many of the symbolic antics used by anti-hunting and trapping groups, like posing while wrapped in lettuce leaves, the animal rights activist group quickly achieved its goal of helping to put what is being called the largest mink ranch in the U.S. at the time out of business.

However, the vandalism that led to the loss of around 10,000 mink when up to 40,000 were let out of their cages overnight on Nov. 14-15, 2022, may have just been the final straw.

This fur company, like many others worldwide, has likely been struggling along with the rest of the industry in the current world economy and novel circumstances.

Mink pelt prices have been very low for years now, as fashion trends have recently favored the use of fur for specific specialty markets.

A glut of ranch mink from over-production of this item has caused depressed prices, leading to liquidation of entire ranches, then stockpiles of unused goods to amass for the past several years.

The availability of so many ranch pelts caused prime raw wild mink pelt prices to drop down into the $6 to $12 range.

The bankruptcy of a major fur wholesaler, the lingering effects of a fragmented skilled fur garment workforce from COVID-19 disruptions, and the inability to maintain normal fur auctions and open trade has also put the industry in limbo for the past couple of years.

Many of the major furrier processing centers are located in China and Europe, including Ukraine and Russia. Now, the current conflict in Ukraine has shifted priorities and eliminated markets there and throughout an also economically-stressed Europe.

As an industry sidenote, coyote fur was used for several years by a popular fur coat manufacturer as its decorative and functional hood and sleeve trim. This fur is thick, warm, resists frost, and is made from sustainable resources. But bowing to pressure from the anti’s, manufacturers switched to recycled fur and quit buying newly harvested coyote pelts.

Natural beaver fur, plucked pelts, or those being used to make felt for a variety of beaver hat styles are still resulting in steady sales for trappers, but at modest prices.

Its durability and water resiliency continues to keep this product still relevant hundreds of years after they were first pursued by frontiersmen in North America.

The price being paid for properly prepared, dried castor glands helps make up for the shortcomings paid for pelts.

The Ohio State Trappers Association has fur auctions planned for Jan. 14 in Bucyrus, Feb. 11 in Washington Courthouse, and on March 11 in Kidron. See ohiostatetrappers. org/events.html for details.

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