MINNEAPOLIS -- Authorities say up to 40,000 mink are on the loose in central Minnesota after being released late Sunday or early Monday from a fur farm, reports CBS Minnesota.
The Stearns County Sheriff's Office said Monday that the animals set free by one or more people who broke into Lang Farms, near Eden Valley.
The suspect(s) dismantled the exterior fence surrounding the mink barns and let all the animals out of their cages,
The sheriff's office says between 30,000 and 40,000 animals, with an estimated value of over $750,000, are on the loose.
"These nitwits think they are doing something good," Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, referring to militant animal rights activists who are, he says, the chief suspects. "Who else is going to do this?"
The newspaper says authorities are concerned the animals could bite humans and are worried about any other animals that come into contact with a mink, "a species known for its angry disposition."
The mink could pose a threat to adjacent native habitats, the sheriff's office told CBS Minnesota, adding that mink will struggle to survive in the wild.
"Some of the mink are dying from the stress or something else, we don't know," Gudmundson remarked to the Star Tribune. "A large number will starve to death. They weren't taught to hunt by their mother. Others will get run over on the road."
Lang Farms has a "number of people out there with nets, capturing some of them," Gudmundson said to the newspaper midafternoon Monday. "The mink don't know where to go. They've never been out of their cages."
According to the Department of Natural Resources, mink naturally live all across Minnesota.