Sanctuary Stories

The Great Escape of Olaf the Mink

Fur farms are slaughtering mink by the millions, but Olaf found a way out to the good life

Jessica Scott-Reid
Published in
4 min readJan 26, 2021
A white-furred, pink-nosed mink looks curiously towards the camera lens from a hammock in a cage.
Olaf at Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary. Photos provided and taken by Beth Randall, unless otherwise noted

When Beth Randall started feeling sick with Covid-19 symptoms in March, before testing was widely available, she knew right away she needed to stay out of the ferret and mink room at her sanctuary. As much of the world was just learning about the virus, the president and founder of Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary in Northern Illinois was already aware that ferrets and mink are uniquely susceptible, and started taking precautions.

Today, Randall is recovered and well, but also heartbroken to learn that mink can spread the virus back to humans in mutated forms, leading to the culling of millions of mink on fur farms in Europe and a thousand in Canada. It’s something she can’t help but keep top of mind as she now very carefully cares for her own animals, including Olaf, a special white mink who escaped a fur farm and a horrible fate.

Olaf the mink is in a crate on the day of his rescue, red eyes flashing brightly due to the flash camera picture
Olaf upon rescue. Photo taken by rescuer Hanna Donnovan.

It was March of 2017 when Olaf made his desperate run for freedom, recalls Randall. The spring is “a pretty common time for mink to escape,” she says, when they are being handled more to be checked and killed for their fur. “There’s usually about ten thousand mink on a farm,” says Randall, explaining how a mink gone missing is not usually cause for concern among fur farmers.

After a while on the lam, the white mink was eventually spotted in someone’s yard. He was thought to be a ferret. “A woman posted a picture of Olaf on Facebook,” says Randall, prompting a local ferret rescuer to set out to catch him. Upon being rescued, it was obvious Olaf was not a ferret, and so he was networked via the Mink International Rescue And Recovery community, and found his way to Critter Camp.

Olaf was malnourished and dehydrated when he arrived at the sanctuary, which is also home to foxes, raccoons, parrots, chinchillas and other animals unable to be released into the wild. “He did have parasites, so we had to treat him,” says Randall.