Saturday, August 8, 1998 Published at 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Mink terrorise Hampshire after farm release
Mink have a vicious bite
Up to 6,000 mink are on the loose in Hampshire after being set free from a fur farm by intruders.
It is not known who released the mink from Crow Hill farm, near Ringwood, but the owner, Terrence Smith, blamed animal rights activists and said they had committed an "own goal".
He said that whoever had freed the animals had "effectively issued a death sentence to most of the mink, which will not survive for long in the wild".
An RSPCA spokeswoman said: "Hundreds of mink will die. They are raised in factory conditions and they are not ready for life in the wild.
"This highlights the dangers of raising non-indigenous species like this in farms - when they are released, it is a disaster."
She urged anyone who sees a mink on their property not to approach it, but to call their local RSPCA branch, which will send an inspector with protective gloves.
'Devastating' impact on ecology
Animal welfare activists also warned that it would have a devastating impact both on the local ecology and on the mink themselves.
Mark Glover, of the group Respect for Animals, said the mink would almost certainly die from starvation or by being run over or shot.
Any animals rounded up and returned to the farm would probably end up sharing cages with other mink not from their family group, and would consequently fight viciously with one another, he added.
"It seems unlikely that minks would be freed by anyone with true animal welfare intentions, in view of the fact that the future for the animals looks bleak," he said.
"At the end of the day, the government has pledged to ban fur farming, so it would be a futile gesture anyway."
Neighbours of the farm awoke to find mink swarming through their gardens, stables, ponds and even in drainpipes.
Linda Shelton, who lives near the farm, said: "I was woken by the sound of my dogs yapping early this morning and found mink running all over the property.
"They were everywhere - it was absolute chaos, because they got into the stables with my horses.
"A neighbour rang up to say they had even got into his drainpipes. It is going to be an awful job rounding them all up and getting rid of them.
"We are not going to be clear of mink for a long time."