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Virginia Bonlander woke at 5 a.m. Saturday to a police officer’s banging on the door of her home in New Holstein. Police had gotten 911 reports of mink on the road, she said. A couple phone calls later, more than 100 people were searching fields, sheds and ditches for the mink.
The group was able to gather about 1,500 to 1,700 mink, said Bonlander, who has owned the ranch with her husband since 1978. The people responsible “are a bunch of idiots,” Bonlander said Tuesday.
“They have no clue what goes on on a farm,” she said. “This is our livelihood.”
There are about 50 mink farms in Minnesota, behind only Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho and Oregon in mink production, according the trade group Fur Commission USA. Nationwide, there are about 300 farms in 23 states.
Nearly all of the demand for mink comes from overseas, with the Chinese market importing at least 70 percent of U.S.-produced pelts, said Michael Whelan, executive director of the commission. Prices for pelts have nearly tripled in recent years, he added.
The commission is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to activists behind the campaign, which Whelan said has been going on for at least six weeks. “The perpetrators are not heroes, or idealists; they are felons,” Whelan said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Frontline website posted a statement it said came from the person taking responsibility for the Minnesota action. The site predicted that more attacks on mink farms would be coming. “With pelting season still two months away, this campaign may not even be close to finished,” the website said.
Bonlander recommended mink farmers install cameras and security systems — something she’s done since Saturday.
“If these animal liberation folks think they can put the mink farmers out of business,” Bonlander said, “they’ve got another think coming.”
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168 | Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482