Lions, Tigers, And Bears Running Wild In Ohio

Posted: October 19, 2011 in Nitegator

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Schools shuttered and some frightened residents said they were hunkering down in their homes as sheriff’s deputies hunted lions, tigers, leopards and grizzly bears that escaped from a preserve after the death of the owner.

Police have not yet said how Terry Thompson died, but Zanesville Mayor Howard Zwelling told CNN Wednesday that Thompson freed the animals from their pens and then shot himself. Thompson owned 48 exotic animals. About 30 to 35 of them had been found, said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz. Those that had escaped from their pens were put down.

Zwelling said he received calls from people who were concerned that the animals had been killed. He said authorities were trying to use tranquilizers whenever possible to save their lives. Sheriff’s deputies used night vision equipment until daylight Wednesday to continue their search, hampered by rain. Lutz said deputies, armed with shotguns, were patrolling areas in pickup trucks.

“There are still thought to be several dangerous animals on the loose, creating a public safety threat.”

The community was in a state of “shock and surprise,” said Tom Warne, owner of Donald’s Donuts and a lifelong resident of the city of Zanesville. “It’s the craziest sort of thing,” he said.

Warne said he had met Thompson a few times. He used to patronize the doughnut shop at one time. Thompson had his run-ins with the law. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to federal charges of possessing illegal firearms, including five fully automatic firearms, and had just been released from prison. Thompson’s property is about two miles outside Zanesville, Zwelling said. Authorities said they were receiving reports of animal sightings by residents. Columbus Zoo director emeritus Jack Hanna drove into Zanesville overnight to assist in the search.

But Hanna warned that the search was dangerous and human life came first. “We’re trying our best to make sure no one is hurt doing this,” he said. He said the animals were probably hiding out from the rain, but his advice to anyone who encounters an animal is this: Don’t run. Just scream.

In nearby Licking County, Sheriff Randy Thorp said he has activated the county SWAT team “who will be equipped with night vision and the necessary weapons to deal with any encounters with such animals.” The menagerie of about 48 animals on the loose also includes wolves, giraffes and camels. Commuters reported seeing bears and wolves along Interstate 70.

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