The roads and rivers of northwest Ireland are suddenly lined with mink.
Managers at Anderson's Mink Farm said Wednesday that many of their cages and fences were cut and opened over the weekend, freeing an estimated 5,000 animals into the wilds of County Donegal. About 28,000 others declined the invitation to bolt for freedom.
More than 100 already have been recaptured by hunters using cage traps, while several hundred others have been run over and killed. Drivers have reported seeing groups of the farm-reared animals standing, dazzled by headlights, in the middle of busy roads.
One of the farm's directors, Connie Anderson, blamed animal rights activists for invading the farm in the early hours of Sunday. He declined to explain why it took the farm so long to raise the public alarm.
"These people are animal liberation terrorists and had no thought for the mink or for the damage that will be done to other wildlife in the area," Anderson said.
Agricultural authorities warned that the surviving minks could decimate local populations of salmon, rabbits and fowl.
Animal rights activists in Ireland have denied responsibility — but are praising whoever did it.
"We have nothing to do with it. However, I commend whoever risked their freedom to do this as these animals have a horrendous life," said Bernie Wright, spokeswoman for Ireland's Alliance for Animal Rights.