VAN WERT COUNTY, Ohio — Owners of Lion Farms USA, the mink farm in Van Wert, Ohio, that lost tens of thousands of mink Tuesday due to a break-in, said about 30,000 mink, about 80%, have been accounted for, leaving possibly 10,000 others still on the loose.
Fur Commission USA Executive Director Challis Hobbs said that many mink will create a negative domino effect on the local ecosystem.
"The residents are in a bad situation, the mink themselves are in a bad situation, the farmers. There's not a scenario where this is good," Hobbs said.
He said there are currently more than 100 mink farms across 12 states in the U.S. Collectively, they're breeding about 1.5 million mink. With the typical price for one mink running about $40 dollars, Lion's losses are not a drop in the bucket.
"You're looking at $1.6 million dollars would be the livestock loss, that's just the livestock loss," Hobbs said. "We're not talking the vandalism, the graffiti, the fences broken, the cages torn apart, the barns vandalized."
He believes the farm was attacked by activists who have also damaged two other farms in Ohio, and one Michigan, in the last three weeks.
Allision Aye, the executive director Nature's Nursery Center for Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, said mink are aggressive hunters willing to prey on any animal as much as two times their size.
Hobbs said these mink eat about 1.5 pounds of food per day, which puts area residents' pets and local farmers' livestock in danger.
"At 10,000 mink, you're talking 1,600 chickens a day they'd need to find," Hobbs said.
The damage to the ecosystem won't just affect livestock either. The mink are putting the local food chain in disarray.
"Now you're wiping out the rodents, the smaller squirrels, chipmunks and things like that," Aye said. "You've got raptors and the other animals that normally feed on them that are going to be leaving that area to find food elsewhere."
And since the mink are domesticated, they lack wildlife survival skills. None of them know how to make shelter or find water in the area. Both Aye and Hobbs said the activists they believe released the mink did more harm than good.
"The intent was to save those animals," Aye said. "However, what they didn't think through, was the fact that those mink in that fur farm, those are no longer wild animals. They are technically domestic animals."
Hobbs said the escaped animals don't have long to live.
"There's really a small time window in here," he said. "Three days with this kind of weather, this kind of element exposure and tough access to water, they'll all be dead," Hobbs said.
Currently, local hunters are killing the loose mink. Nature's Nursery will not take any of these mink because they are not wild. Workers from Lion Farms also are setting out traps in hopes of capturing back the lost livestock.