More than 1,000 mink were set free at a farm in St. Marys this weekend, leaving their kits behind.

The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating and so far no charges have been laid. Local ranchers suspect animal welfare activists were trying to set the animals free.

“The mink were in the range of 30 days old, still nursing and relying on their mothers for warmth and shelter. Without them, they’re not old enough to survive on their own,” says mink rancher Jeff Richardson.

Friends and neighbours spent six hours trying to catch the mink. Some were injured in the process. Gary Hazlewood from the Canadian Mink Breeders Association says there is no way to match mothers to their young and these animals will suffer tremendously.

“It’s well-intentioned misguided, misinformed people who think they’re actually going to help the animals by letting them out of their pens,” says Hazlewood.

Of the 1,500 breeding females in these barns about 150 have died from the weather or being run over on the road.

The farmer continues to search for the few animals still missing.