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Mink Infected With Coronavirus Escapes Oregon Fur Farm

A wild American mink
Sergey Ryzhkov / Wikipedia Commons
A wild American mink.

A mink caught outside a farm in Oregon in mid-December has tested positive for low-levels of the coronavirus.

State officials believe the mink escaped from a small farm that was already under quarantine because of a coronavirus outbreak among mink and humans.

In a press release, the Oregon Department of Agriculture said it won’t disclose where the farm is located, citing medical privacy laws.

The Center of Biological Diversity, an environmental group, says mink that escape from fur farms could potentially spread the virus to other wildlife.

“Mink are related to a range of other species, including badgers, martens, fishers, weasels, otters, and wolverines,” says Jonathan Evans, the center’s environmental health legal director. “So we know that escaped mink or mink factory farms themselves can pose disease risks for wild animals.”

The virus could also infect animals that eat an infected mink or its feces.

State-hired biologists trapped the mink along with eight other animals, including five opossums and three cats. Only the mink tested positive for the virus.

State officials say there isn’t any evidence that the coroanvirus is spreading among wildlife.

“Still, we are taking this situation very seriously and continuing to survey and trap near the farm,” wrote Ryan Scholz, ODA state veterinarian, in the press release.

The Center for Biological Diversity is calling on the state to provide more information about coronavirus outbreaks at mink farms. There are 11 such farms in Oregon.

“Government officials really need to be reporting more about where these disease outbreaks are occurring — where are these mink farms that are having these COVID outbreaks — and reporting that information in real-time to the public,” Evans says.

Proponents of mink farming have accused environmental groups of using the outbreak as a reason to ban mink fur production and sales in the state.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.