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Some 10,000 mink loose, missing after vandalism at Van Wert County farm

Minks in a cage.
Sergei Grits
Minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus in this Dec. 6, 2012, file photo

A sheriff said vandalism freed thousands of mink at a rural northwest Ohio farm, leaving an estimated 10,000 of the small carnivorous mammals unaccounted for as of Tuesday evening.

Van Wert County Sheriff Thomas Riggenbach said the property owner initially estimated 25,000 to 40,000 mink were released from cages at Lion Farms near Van Wert.

But he says employees there corralled many that remained on the property, less than 15 miles from the Indiana state line.

Enough mink were killed crossing a road that the sheriff said a plow was brought in to clear them away. He wouldn't discuss any potential motive or suspects.

Someone left a spraypainted message "ALF" and the phase "We'll be back" at the farm. The group as the Animal Liberation Front has reportedly claimed responsibility for previous releases.

The sheriff warns mink are carnivores that often hunt prey bigger than themselves, and can be a bothersome pest to home and livestock owners, especially poultry ranchers and people with ornamental fish ponds.