A Sumatran tiger
An estimate 50 wild animals, including lions, tigers and bears have escaped from a farm in Ohio. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Police are scouring rural Ohio for a number of exotic animals that escaped from a farm after the owner died. The gates had apparently been opened and almost 50 large animals, including cheetahs and lions, escaped into the countryside.

Feel free to say ‘oh my’

The countryside near Zanesville, Ohio, is being scoured by police because 48 exotic animals, including large predators, have been released, according to MSNBC. The owner was found dead and gates and cages were found open.

The 40-acre Muskingum County Animal Preserve was home to camels, giraffes, cheetahs, wolves, lions, tigers and bears. Police were alerted to reports of wild animals loose from Terry Thompson’s farm in the late afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 18. Immediately upon arriving, police had to shoot several wild animals near Thompson’s body.

Police were issued a “shoot to kill” order by Sheriff Matt Lutz. More than 30 had been shot and killed by the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 19. According to USA Today, signs were posted on roadways alerting motorists to stay in their vehicles, and several schools were closed as a precaution.

Suspected suicide

Terry Thompson, according to USA Today, is believed to have opened the cages and committed suicide. An autopsy is pending, but he was reportedly found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Orangutans and chimpanzees in Thompson’s house were still caged.

Police have been called 35 times about Thompson’s farm since 2005. His neighbor reported camels from his property grazing near the freeway several weeks ago, according to MSNBC. A lion escaped from his grounds in 2006.

A mountain lion, a monkey and a grizzly bear are reportedly still on the loose, according to the BBC.

Controversial shootings

Sheriff Matt Lutz has defended the shoot-to-kill order, as it was dark when the search began. A Bengal tiger was among the animals that were shot.

Jack Hanna, famous zookeeper and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, defended the shootings. Tranquilizer darts require time to take effect, as he pointed out, and a large, nervous animal can pose serious danger to anyone in the vicinity. Ohio’s lax restrictions on keeping exotic pets are being heavily criticized; there is no law against owning tigers or lions. Permits are required to keep bears.

Danger of exotic pets

According to the Sudbury Star, 66-year-old Norman Buwalda of Southwold, Ontario, was mauled to death by his pet Siberian tiger in 2010. In 2009, Kelly Ann Walz was killed by her husband’s black bear, according to MSNBC, when she was cleaning its pen. Cathie Ake of Wewahitchka, Fla., was crushed to death by one of her camels in 2007, according to ABC. A Burmese python strangled a 2-year-old girl to death in 2009 in Florida, according to Reuters.

Sources

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44953925/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/#.Tp745GWP-_1

USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-10-18/exotic-animals-loose-ohio/50821092/1

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-15364027

Sudbury Star: http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2255816&archive=true

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33174516/ns/us_news-life/t/captive-bear-kills-woman-during-cage-cleaning/#.Tp7_LGWP-_0

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=6150276&page=1

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/11/us-crime-python-idUSTRE76A6YW20110711

 

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