- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The owners of a rural mink farm in Sultan, Wash., spent a long day Monday trying to round up more than 10,000 minks set free during a suspected ecoterrorism attack. Even as night fell, minks could be seen scampering through the area.

Brad Roesler said his family and neighbors set out traps and tromped through the woods searching for the minks. While most of the animals had been returned to cages last night, scores of others died from dehydration or from being struck by cars.

Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser said about 9,000 minks had been recovered by 8 p.m. Monday. Search crews beat brush and peered into drainage pipes until dark. The search continued yesterday.

“I don’t know the loss,” Chief Walser said. “We probably won’t know for a day or two.”

Chief Walser said someone cut through the fence of the Roesler Brothers Fur Farm and opened all of the cooplike cages. Police were called shortly after 4 a.m. Monday when someone saw hundreds of minks running loose.

Mr. Roesler said the cages were opened sometime between midnight and 4 a.m. He estimated about half of his 22,000 minks never left their cages.

“When I got up there, there was mink all over,” Chief Walser said. “One bit me. It felt like a sewing machine; their teeth are pretty sharp.”

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an international group that the FBI says is responsible for more than 600 crimes nationally since 1996, claimed responsibility for the attack in an e-mail sent to local news outlets.

“Fencing was removed and nearly every cage opened,” ALF officials wrote in the e-mail. “It has been shown through such efforts as the Mink Rehabilitation Project that farm-raised mink can survive and flourish in the wild.”

But Teresa Platt, executive director of the San Diego-based Fur Commission USA, said the minks had been hand-raised by the Roeslers and didn’t know how to hunt for food or water.

“This is a great example of animal cruelty,” said Miss Platt, who estimated the damage at the farm at $500,000. “They’re trying to terrorize the farmer into giving up his livelihood. That’s ecoterrorism.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a grown mink is worth about $36. Because the Roesler Family Farm specialized in the coveted blue mink, Miss Platt said, they could fetch about $40 per animal.

Mr. Roesler said the family farm started as a Future Farmers of America project. Mr. Roesler’s brother began by raising one mink, and now the farm harvests close to 8,000 minks annually.

While Mr. Roesler said his family will recover financially, his wife, Katy, was less sure.

“This makes it tough to buy school clothes for the kids, doesn’t it?” she said.

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