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Bodies of minks shot by hunters, run over by vehicles have to be cleared with snow plow in Van Wert

Tens of thousands of animals set lose from a local mink farm overnight faced new threats in Van Wert County Tuesday.

VAN WERT, Ohio — In the hours after as many as 40,000 minks were released from a Van Wert County farm Tuesday, many were either shot or killed by vehicles on local roads.

Officials said at least one unknown suspect freed the minks from their cages at Lion Farms USA Mink Farm overnight, sending between 25,000 and 40,000 minks into the surrounding countryside.

Dozens of local residents came out to hunt the animals Tuesday. One of them, Steve Replogle, said he was shooting loose minks as a public service. 

"A danger to society, nuisance" he said of the minks set loose from the farm. 

The animals, which are highly destructive carnivores that can pose a danger to chickens and other animals, had already attacked his friend's chicken farm Tuesday afternoon, Replogle said.

Still more loose minks were killed along U.S. 127 where they ran after being released from the nearby farm. So many minks were dead on the road that the Van Wert County Sheriff's Office called in a snow plow to remove their bodies.

RELATED: Van Wert Co. Sheriff: 25 to 40 thousand minks with a diet consisting of 'fresh kills' released from farm

Whether it was legal to shoot the animals was unclear. Authorities were not discouraging people killing the minks Tuesday.

Curtis Young, the agriculture and natural resources educator with the Ohio State University Extension service in Van Wert County, said it is unlikely the animals would survive the winter even if they escaped hunters Tuesday.

"Because of the time of the year, the availability of prey is maybe somewhat limited for them, so unfortunately a lot of them are going to starve to death," Young said.

The Van Wert County Sheriff's Office is investigating the situation with assistance from other agencies, including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, among others.

Anyone with information regarding the break-in of Lion Farms USA Mink Farm is asked to contact the Van Wert County Sheriff's Office at 419-238-3866, or Van Wert County Crime Stoppers at 419-238-7867. You can remain anonymous. 

Anyone needing assistance trapping nuisance animals may contact the following licensed trappers: David Burger, 419-203-6368 or Cody Feasby, 419-203-6238. 

RELATED: One of the endangered piping plover chicks at Maumee Bay State Park has died

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