July 20, 2017 02:47 PM
The Lang family has been raising mink for pelts in the Eden Valley area since Dan Lang's great-grandfather 'Curly' started a farm there in 1936.
"It's been our whole life," said Dan, who now co-owns Lang Farms with his brother. "It's what we do."
But that life was changed unalterably Monday morning when he arrived at one of the two locations his mink are raised and discovered vandals had broken in and let 30,000 to 40,000 of the animals loose.
"Try coming home and having your oldest daughter ask you if we're going to be able to keep raising mink," he said. "It was a tough day."
Lang said the vandals broke in by removing screws and folding down part of the six-foot tall fence that surrounds the property.
He said every pen was opened. Lang said they do try to patrol the property at night, but the farm has no security cameras.
"We'll be adding those now," he said.
The Stearns County Sheriff's Department and the FBI are among the agencies investigating the incident.
Authorities believe an animal rights group could be responsible.
"Given the size of the release and the number of buildings involved, it seems pretty clear this was a planned-out operation," Stearns County Sheriff chief deputy Jon Lentz said. "It wasn't just one or two guys who had a couple of cocktails and were goofing around."
Lang said if the intent of those responsible was to free the mink, they ended up causing the animal's great harm.
He said thousands already died in the heat Monday. More are likely to follow as a result of stress in the days to come, and those left in the wild aren't equipped to survive there.
"These animals are fed and watered every day," he said. "They're domesticated. Wild mink are small. Our male mink are probably three or four times that size. They can't make it out there."
The scene at the farm Monday morning was upsetting to both Lang and his wife Nicole, as well as the couple's four children.
"There were so many dead mink," she said. "So many running around loose. It was chaos. It was just so hard knowing what this does to our family and what it does to Dan."
Lang said Lang Farms has around 50,000 mink in all. Of the around 40,000 missing, he now expects to get back less than half.
"I had hoped 50 percent, but after seeing the death-loss we've already seen, I don't think so," he said.
That could mean an economic hit of $750,000 or more to his family, and he's not sure what insurance may cover.
"We don't know 100 percent what will be covered (by insurance) because we've never been through something like this," he said.
But he was heartened by the support his family has received. A crew of about 50 helped in the search and recovery process Monday. And about 20 people were searching Tuesday.
"It's been neighbors, friends, other mink farmers," Lang said. "We had people drive in from out-of-state. Other people offered to get in a car and fly here. It's been really heartening."
Lang said his farm had not received any real threats prior to Sunday.
"None at all," he said. "I think our farm may have been mentioned on the internet a long ago, but we had nothing that would set off alarm bells."
Lang said his family is going to keep going. And he doesn't intend to lay off any of the farm's 16 employees.
"We'll make it through," he said. "There's no doubt about that. We're not going anywhere."
He said authorities haven't provided him with any information about potential suspects yet.
The investigation remains ongoing. Lentz said no suspects are yet in custody and his department has yet to receive any tips.
"I just want answers," he said. "My mink don't die. And they're dying now. I want to know why."
Updated: July 20, 2017 02:47 PM
Created: July 18, 2017 03:07 PM
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