It was a jailbreak for the ages: thousands of dangerous captives on the run in Pennsylvania, an all-hands alert for law enforcement, and anxious officials warning the public to report sightings to an emergency hotline.
The escapees are animals from a mink farm in Rockefeller Township, 60 miles north of Harrisburg, and were liberated by an “unknown actor” who cut a hole in a fence in the early hours of Sunday, according to a report from Pennsylvania state police.
Between 6,000 and 8,000 minks were released, authorities say, with those living nearby urged not to approach or try to capture any that they see.
“Live minks can be dangerous and may bite residents. Authorities are advising residents not to approach or attempt to catch minks without a safe and proper trap,” the state senator Lynda Schlegel Culver said in a statement.
Her office is publicizing a hotline set up by the Northumberland county emergency management department to call in sightings of any mink, alive or dead. Meanwhile, “numerous state agencies and farm staff are currently working on recovering the mink that escaped the fence”, the police statement said.
By Tuesday, it was believed most of the escaped minks had been recovered. Challis Hobbs, executive director of Fur Commission USA, a national body representing mink farmers, told Pennsylvania’s Fox56 that many remained close to the farm and were rounded up.
A spokesperson for the Sunbury animal hospital in Rockefeller Township told the station it believed only a few hundred of the animals were still on the loose.
The motive for the break-in at the rural farm owned by Richard H Stahl Sons Inc is unknown, but animal rights activists have previously targeted mink production facilities.
In the most serious of a number of recent mink “releases” investigated by the FBI in Ohio, up to 40,000 animals were set free in Van Wert county in November 2022. Fur Commission USA said the released animals would die in the wild, and called the episode a “devastating [act of] violence, animal cruelty and vandalism” that would cost about $1.6m.
The Pennsylvania incident would have similar consequences, the commission said in a statement: “This act is not just an attack on a single farm but a blow to rural communities and the surrounding ecosystem. The targeted farm is a legal, certified operation that adheres to stringent guidelines for humane animal care. Unfortunately, most [of the minks] will ultimately die from starvation, exposure or get hit by cars.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) maintains farmed minks are kept in miserable conditions in “dismal, often filthy places where thousands of animals are usually kept in wire cages for their entire lives”, according to the group’s website.
“The anguish and frustration of life in a cage leads many animals to self-mutilate, biting at their skin, tail and feet; frantically pace and circle endlessly; and even cannibalize their cagemates.”
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/sep/20/mink-escape-farm-pennsylvania ‘Do not approach’: up to 8,000 minks escape from farm in Pennsylvania | Pennsylvania