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VAN WERT COUNTY, Ohio (WANE) — Police in Van Wert County said someone broke into a mink farm overnight and released more than 25,000 of the small animals from their cages.

The incident happened early Tuesday at Lion Farms USA Mink Farm on Hoaglin Road in Hoaglin Township, six miles north of Van Wert, according to a post from the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office said the suspect or suspects destroyed fencing at the farm and released 25,000-40,000 mink from their cages. Many remained on property and were corralled by farm workers, the sheriff’s office said.

Others escaped, though.

A WANE 15 crew at the farm was told many of the mink are being killed when they are found. In a news release around 4 p.m., the sheriff’s office said 10,000 mink were still unaccounted for.

Now, the sheriff’s office is warning about the mink.

Minks are carnivorous mammals that stick to a diet consisting of fresh kills. They regularly hunt prey bigger than themselves. As a result, they can be a bothersome pest for homeowners, livestock owners, and property managers. Minks have proven to be especially costly and problematic for poultry ranchers as well as homeowners with ornamental ponds filled with koi and other fish,” the sheriff’s office said in the post.

It’s not clear who broke into the farm to release the animals. The sheriff’s office said the incident was under investigation.

Eddie Meyer, manager of the mink farm, told WANE 15 the break-in must have happened between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.

On the wall near where the fence was cut, the letters “ALF” were spray painted alongside the phrase “we’ll be back.”

In 2004, John E. Lewis, who was the deputy assistant director for the FBI at the time, spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding ALF, which is short for Animal Liberation Front.

ALF was established in Great Britain in the 1970s and is a loosely organized extremist movement committed to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals, according to Lewis.

Lewis also described ALF at the time as a group that had emerged as a “serious domestic terrorist threat.”

Lewis said ALF members “engage in ‘direct action’ against companies or individuals who, in their view, utilize animals for research or economic gain, or do some manner of business with those companies or individuals.”

Meyer said 95% of the minks will die within a few days due to being domesticated and not used to hunting in the wild.

Meyer estimated the farm has been able to get back approximately 7,000 mink, and the rest are being hunted by the farm and locals.

The sheriff’s office said property owners who have mink come onto their property have
the right to protect their property, but individuals who discharged a firearm in municipal areas can be in violation of law.

Van Wert County police have been making sure those who are hunting mink have the proper licenses and are not trespassing while doing so.

Meyer also told WANE 15 the Ohio State Highway Patrol came to the farm Tuesday night to ensure hunters did not trespass on the farm’s property.

Property owners with a hunting license exemption can also hunt or trap a fur-bearing
animal on his or her own lands without a fur taker permit, the sheriff’s office added.

WANE 15 spoke with Joseph Buddenberg, a member of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, who claims to have released animals from farms before, and Buddenberg provided insight into the mindset of those who break out animals from farms.

“The only humane thing to do when you visit a fur farm is to open every cage and liberate all the animals,” Buddenberg said.

Buddenberg, who spent two years in federal prison for breaking out animals, said he once traveled across the country with another person in an attempt to “liberate” fur farms and release animals.

Buddenberg claimed people who commit these acts are attempting to free animals from poor conditions and “filthy, tiny wire cages.”

In response to reports saying the mink will not survive in the wild due to domestication, Buddenberg said “they talk out of both sides of their mouth.”

“They say these animals can’t survive, but then they also say they’re hunting and killing every animal within a 20-mile radius,” Buddenberg said. “So which one is it?”

Anyone with any information on the break-in at the mink farm is asked to call the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office at (419) 238-3866 or Van Wert County Crime Stoppers at (419) 238-STOP (7867).

Anyone who needs help in trapping nuisance animals can call Licensed Trappers David Burger at (419) 203-6368 or Cody Feasby at (419) 203-6238.