Animal rights activists released 3,000 mink during a late-night break-in at a fur farm in western Wisconsin, the Trempealeau County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.
Owners of Olsen Fur Farm arrived Saturday morning to find someone had cut through a chain link fence and released thousands of mink, according to Challis Hobbs, president of the Fur Commission USA, a national nonprofit for fur farmers.
The break-in happened sometime between late-night Friday and early Saturday, the Sheriff's Office said in a news release. The activists opened the cages of roughly 3,000 of the 4,000 mink kept at the farm, which is in Independence, Wis.
About 90% of the mink have been recovered so far, Hobbs said. No suspects have been arrested, and the Sheriff's Office is still investigating.
The culprits who released the mink discussed the raid in an anonymous message to the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, saying they "hope many of the mink enjoy their freedom in the wild."
"They [Olsen Fur Farm] have an opportunity now to cut their losses and leave the fur industry forever," the message reads. "Even if these minks lives in the wild are cut short by nature or human intervention, the farm would have undoubtedly slaughtered them all."
Hobbs disagreed. He said mink that are not recaptured typically die earlier than those that are born and have lived in the wild because they are fed regularly at farms.
"They basically just die because there's nothing to eat, and they don't have burrows to find security from predator attacks," he said. "It messes with the ecosystem."
Attempts to reach the farm for comment were unsuccessful.
The same farm was broken into in 1997, when 800 mink were released, the North American Animal Liberation Press Office reports on its website.
American mink are found in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Their populations remain healthy in Minnesota, according to the state's Department of Natural Resources. The species is currently in the "least concern" category for population according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.