Police and wildlife authorities are hunting down a score of exotic wild animals in eastern Ohio following a mass escape after their owner killed himself. Schools were closed down and residents around Zanesville, Ohio told to stay in their homes and vehicles after reports that such animals as lions, tigers, grizzly bears and leopards were on the loose.
Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said in a press statement that many of the escaped ohio animals have been killed. “We are not talking about your normal everyday house cat or dog,” Lutz said. “These are 300-pound Bengal tigers that we have had to put down. “When we got here, obviously, public safety was my number one concern. We could not have animals running loose in this county.”
Zanesville Mayor Howard Zwelling said tranquilizers were being used when possible to save the lives of the animals loose in Ohio, but many officers did not have access to the darts during the search. Even for those who did have tranquilizers, they didn’t always work.
“We just had a huge tiger, an adult tiger that must’ve weighed 300 pounds that was very aggressive,” Sherrif Lutz said. “We got a tranquilizer in it, and this thing just went crazy.” He said officers were forced to kill the tiger. Nature TV host Jack Hanna, former director at the Columbus Zoo, said police had done the right thing.
“You cannot tranquilize an animal like this, a bear or a leopard or a tiger [at night],” Mr Hanna told ABC of the animals loose in Ohio. “If you do that, the animal gets very excited, it goes and hides, and then we have [police officers] in danger of losing their life, and other people.”
According to police, the escaped Ohio animals were all kept by a 62-year-old man named Terry Thompson. The man allegedly released the animals and then appears to have committed suicide. Sheriff Lutz said numerous complaints have been filed about Thompson’s animal collection over the years. He also said it was clear the animals were deliberately let loose. “He released the animals at some point, and the gates were open and some of the pens were also cut open,” Lutz said.
Thompson reportedly owned around 50 exotic animals and at least three — a grizzly bear, a monkey and a mountain lion — still appear to be missing. The private Ohio zoo on Thompson’s 40-acre farm also reportedly played host to wolves, cheetahs, giraffes, camels and other exotic wildlife.