A wild mink in Utah has tested positive for COVID-19 in the first known case of a non-captive animal catching the potentially deadly disease, according to a USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories memo released on December 13. The disturbing discovery comes after thousands of mink died earlier this year at 16 farms in Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, and Utah.

The infected mink was captured amid ongoing tests of wild animals and in the “immediate vicinity of one of the affected farms,” Utah state veterinarian Dean Taylor told National Geographic.

The strain found in the wild mink is “indistinguishable” from other infected mink throughout the state.

“Finding a virus in a wild mink but not in other wildlife nearby likely indicates an isolated event,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison veterinarian Tony L. Goldberg, “but we should take all such information seriously.”

“The finding demonstrates the continued importance of continuing surveillance around infected mink farms,” said USDA spokesperson Lyndsay Cole, “and of taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus to wildlife.”

The USDA has not yet announced a plan to prevent the virus from spreading to the North American mink population. We must end the transmission of coronavirus at cruel mink farms by closing them altogether. In addition to potentially spreading zoonotic diseases, mink farms are inherently cruel and use torturous methods to kill mink — including gas, electrocution and neck-breaking.

If you haven’t yet, sign Lady Freethinker’s petition urging U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to push for an urgent nationwide ban on cruel fur farming, saving innocent animals’ lives and reducing the risk of spreading zoonotic diseases.

SIGN: Ban Cruel Fur Farms As Minks Test Positive for Coronavirus