An estimated 40,000 mink destined to become coats were freed from a central Minnesota fur farm in what the local sheriff calls an act of "domestic terrorism." Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson says he believes animal rights "nitwits" freed the animals but didn't steal any of them, the Pioneer Press reports. "It's pretty hard to steal 30,000 to 40,000 mink," the sheriff says. "What are you going to do, put them in a trunk? They'd chew your fingers off." Investigators say the burglars, who struck late Sunday or early Monday, dismantled part of an exterior fence before freeing the animals from their cages. A fur industry group is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the perpetrators.
Fur farm co-owner Dan Lang says that since the mink were raised in captivity and have no survival skills, releasing them was a "death sentence," 9News reports. Hundreds of the animals have already been found dead, though others are believed to have killed chickens at a nearby farm. If the perpetrators "actually cared about animals they wouldn't release thousands of mink to die out in the heat," Gudmundson says. "We've already got reports of chickens killed. Don't they care about God's chickens?" Officials say that if many of the predators do survive long term, they could end up killing off a lot of the local wildlife.