MOUNT ANGEL, Ore. (AP) — Vandals released thousands of minks from their cages on a fur ranch, and many of the animals then died of exposure and fighting with each other.
An estimated 8,000 to 9,000 animals were freed in what may have been the largest “eco terrorism” attack on the U.S. mink industry, said Marsha Kelly, spokeswoman for Fur Commission U.S.A., an industry group for mink and fox farmers.
“The number of incidents seems to be escalating,” she said.
Militant animal-rights activists say the multimillion-dollar fur industry raises fur-bearing animals inhumanely and kills them only to satisfy human vanity.
No arrests had been made and no one had claimed responsibility for Friday’s vandalism at the farm near Mount Angel, FBI special agent Pat Geonetta said Sunday. A 1992 federal law bans “animal enterprise terrorism.”
Ranch owner Rick Arritola and others were able to retrieve about 1,300 of the female minks after the raid, but he said many of them and their babies, most less than two weeks old, had died or soon would die.
Many of the hot-tempered animals died from fighting with each other; others died of exposure and some were stepped on, officials said.
Marion County Sgt. David Hussey said Friday’s loss could amount to several hundred thousand dollars.
Arritola said the intruders got past his alarm system.
“They were professionals. It took a lot of people to do what they did,” he said.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office sent extra patrol cars to protect the county’s eight mink farms on Saturday. There are about 80 mink farms in Oregon.
It was the 25th such incident in the United States in the past 18 months, said Kelly, of St. Paul, Minn.
Kelly said the most costly previous attack on the industry was a March pipe-bomb attack on the Utah Fur Breeders Agricultural Cooperative in Sandy, Utah, which produces feed for mink raised in Utah and southern Idaho. Damage was estimated at $1 million.
A group calling itself the Animal Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in the past several years in Utah and Oregon.
Mount Angel is about 33 miles south of Portland.