The owners of a local farm are the latest victim of a string of break-ins throughout the province committed by individuals attempting to release animals into the wild.
On July 31 at about 4:20am Wellington County OPP officers were called to a mink farm on Jones Baseline in Guelph-Eramosa Township for a break-in that occurred sometime between 10pm on July 30 and 4am on July 31.
Police say unknown suspects entered the barn and released approximately 300 mink.
Constable Marylou Schwindt said several people were on site catching minks as police arrived, but she is unsure how many were retrieved. Attempts to contact the farm owners were unsuccessful by press time.
Earlier this year, in two separate break-ins on farms near St. Marys, 1,600 and 6,800 mink were released in a similar manner.
A large majority of the minks in those cases were recovered, but many died (either from exposure, fighting with other minks or being run over by vehicles) or were never found.
The Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for one of those incidents. The Canada Mink Breeders Association (CMBA) has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the two St. Marys cases.
Wellington County OPP could not confirm the St. Marys incidents are related to the Guelph-Eramosa crime.
“We are aware of the other incidents in Perth County and will certainly be considering if they are connected,” Schwindt told the Advertiser.
Despite three similar crimes within a two-month time frame, CMBA executive director Gary Hazlewood said the incidents are relatively rare.
“It’s a rather new phenomenon for people to break into agricultural operations,” he said.
“Historically people respected the integrity of farms and stayed away or never got involved in that sort of thing.”
Hazlewood explained there aren’t lapses in security that make mink farms more susceptible to break-ins than other farming operations; it’s more a case of the social environment.
He said those responsible may be motivated by animal welfare, but releasing minks can actually cause a great deal of harm.
“They can do a lot of damage to ecosystems if there’s a number of them released in an area. And they’re certainly not friendly to anybody who has backyard chickens or ducks or anything like that,” Hazlewood said.
“There’s no way that an ecosystem could handle that sort of thing.”
He added juvenile mink are not likely to stray far from the barn when set free, but the ones that do venture out are left defenseless.
“These young mink wouldn’t have any idea as to how to fend for themselves and they would be certainly at risk of finding something to eat and they’re at risk to other predators that would be out there,” he said.
“The older mink might be a little more adventurous but that would just take them out into areas of more risk because the numbers that could actually adapt to go back into the wild is probably pretty small.”
Hazlewood told the Advertiser that minks on breeding farms in Canada, after more than a hundred years of breeding, are far more domesticated than those living in the wild.
“It’s hard to believe that people who pretend to be acting in an animal’s best welfare actually put them at more risk,” he said.
Anyone with information regarding the mink release in Guelph-Eramosa can contact the Wellington County OPP at 1-888-310-1122. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or submit a tip on-line at www.csgw.tips.