SALEM, Ohio – More than 400 mink died after being released from their pens at a western Pennsylvania farm.
Nearly all of the 2,800 mink at Oakwood Mink Farm in Boyers, Pa., were released in the middle of the night June 5, with 103 nursing females and 340 kits dying as a result. Some were killed on the road, some were trampled by whoever let them loose and some died simply from stress.
Most of the surviving mink were recovered and returned the farm June 6, according to Teresa Platt, executive director of Fur Commission USA. The commission is a nonprofit association that represents mink farmers in 28 states.
Dogs. Two dogs at the farm were also killed during the ordeal. It is unclear if they were shot or hit with a sharp object.
The Robert and Kim DeMatteis family has been raising mink on the Marion Township farm for 32 years.
Right now, officials can only speculate on a motive, but financial harm to the farm could be a major factor, according to Platt, who is acting as the DeMatteis’ media liaison.
Platt estimates damages at Oakwood at more than $100,000.
Investigation. Because the minks could have been released by a domestic terrorist, the FBI is investigating, along with the Butler County State Police. A spokesman from the Pittsburgh FBI office said the bureau cannot comment on ongoing investigations such as this one.
Platt said her organization has no record of a mink release caused by a personal grudge with a farmer. The releases have always been anonymous, random acts.
The kits involved in the release were three to six weeks away from weaning and weighed one-fourth of a pound to 1 pound. Many of those young mink are now orphans and the DeMatteises are working to match them up with females willing to nurse them. Unless they are nursed, the kits will die, Platt said.
Although many of the mink were recovered, the farm has a long road to recovery. The mink are mixed up, along with the breeding records. And even though the mink were off the farm for just a few hours, they were exposed to potentially debilitating diseases.
In past mink releases, those diseases have caused major problems because the animals are often unable to recover.
“He may be starting from scratch next year,” Platt said of Robert DeMatteis.
Brutal. She added this release was more brutal than past releases.
“Occasionally mink are trampled by criminals, but not to this scale,” she said. “And family dogs have been killed by poisoning, but not in this manner.”
Fur Commission USA is offering a reward up to $100,000 for information that leads to the conviction of those responsible for this release.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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