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How the mink release can impact the ecosystem

Newswatch 16's Nikki Krize spoke with a biology professor who says the release of the animals can have severe consequences for our ecosystem.

NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. — Two days after thousands of minks were released from a fur farm, some have been caught, and others killed. There are still countless minks running around Northumberland County.

Experts say minks are the most common animals farmed for their fur. In these situations, minks are bred for their size and are used to having their food appear in a dish. So, when they are released into the wild, the animals do not know what to do—a problem that could lead to even bigger ones.

Thousands of minks are roaming a section of Northumberland County after they were released from a fur farm early Sunday morning. According to state police, someone broke into a mink farm outside Sunbury, cut holes in the fencing, and opened the cages. Around 7,000 minks escaped.

"In the wild, they're territorial. They're solitary. They might need up to four square miles each to eat. And we have just released 7,000 in the same exact space," said DeeAnn Reader, a professor of biology at Bucknell University in Lewisburg.

Prof. Reeder specializes in mammals and says the minks are now competing for food and may not even know how to hunt.

"Some of them are being hit by cars. Some of them are probably being taken by eagles and owls, which are some of their natural predators. And when population levels are too high, they will kill each other. They're also going to be competing against wild mink."

Reeder says this could have a negative impact on our ecosystem. Any small animals could be at risk.

"I would have my chickens locked up real tight right now, and I wouldn't have my cats outside. It's also going to impact our wild species, so mice and other rodents, small songbirds, and fish in streams."

Reeder says minks have been known to carry ticks and diseases, so do not approach them. While many will die, some will survive and breed with each other and with wild minks.

"I can't even begin to understand why someone would have done this—clearly, someone who did not think through the consequences. Whether this was a prank or an animal rights issue, all they have done is generate a tremendous amount of suffering," Prof. Reeder added.

Northumberland County has established a mink hotline to call if you've found one on your property—570-988-4217.

If you catch a mink in a trap, you should take the mink to Sunbury Animal Hospital. Dead minks should be reported to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Jim Fleming is concerned about the minks. He has two dogs, including Bella, who is smaller than the minks. Fleming caught one of the minks with a fishing net.

"I saw the tail, and then when I came out, it moved, and I said, 'That's a mink, definitely.' I knew right away what it was."

Traps can be seen throughout the area. The Ronk family also caught one. They have chickens and rabbits on their property and do not want minks going after them.

'My daughter, my husband, and I chased it around for about ten minutes until we got it into a garbage can, and then we took it to the animal hospital."

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the minks will range in size from 12 to 20 inches. They will be black, brown, or white in color.

"Mink are nasty. They look nice when you see them, but you don't ever want to pick one up. They can hurt you or hurt the animals," Fleming added.

As far as who broke into the mink farm and opened all the cages, that's under investigation by state police.

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