EXOTIC ANIMALS ESCAPE OHIO WILD GAME PRESERVE
Owner found dead, officers out shooting escaped animals, schools closed
October 19, 2011
(ZANESVILLE, OHIO) -- Sheriff’s officers toting assault rifles are out seeking and killing exotic wild animals that escaped from wild animal game preserve in Zanesville, Ohio.
African male lion without mane and little body hair. Photo by Mgiganteus. CLICK TO ENLARGE
By Wednesday morning officers in the rural, eastern Ohio area had already killed dozens of animals that escaped from a wild-animal preserve - the Muskingum County Animal Farm - and where the owner's body later was found.
Employees from the Columbus Zoo also went to the farm hoping to tranquilize and capture the animals.
And with more animals on the loose – an estimated 48 escaped from the game farm including big cats normally found in Africa - officials expected up to four school districts to cancel classes as the remaining bears, big cats and other animals from the farm were hunted down.
Authorities would not say how the farm's owner Terry Thompson died, but did say his death was not considered suspicious.
Around 30 of the 48 escaped animals were shot and killed on Tuesday. Officials were pondering how to dispose of the remains.
The county Sheriff Matt Lutz described them as “wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa.” They include lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears.
He told area residents to stay indoors. There were no reports of injuries to the public.
For reasons that were not clear, officials said the fences at the farm, about 55 miles east of Columbus had been left unsecured and the animals' cages were found open.
Tuesday night, more than 50 law enforcement officials from various agencies were patrolling the 40-acre farm and the surrounding areas in cars and trucks.
Lutz said 911 calls started coming in about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday that wild animals were loose just west of Zanesville on a road that runs under Interstate 70.
He said four deputies with assault rifles went to the farm where they found the owner Thompson dead and all the animal cage doors open.
He did not say how Thompson died but added several aggressive animals were near his body when deputies arrived and had to be shot.
Thompson lived at the property and also had orangutans add chimps in his home but those were found still in their cages.
Lutz said Thompson's wife, who was not at the home, has been contacted.
Thompson was sentenced to one year and a day in prison in October 2010 for two federal counts of possessing illegal firearms and had recently been released. Thomas was charged after agents with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives served a search warrant at his home in 2008.
At that time, the ATF seized 133 weapons and a small amount of ammunition.
Thompson's conviction centered on eight of those guns -- five fully automatic firearms and three short-barreled firearms without serial numbers. Thompson was former a gun dealer who did not renew his license several years ago.
The guns were discovered in a storage chest in the basement of Thompson's home the day ATF served the warrant.
In June 2008, employees from the Columbus Zoo and the Muskingum County Humane Society were on his property after they received complaints about the condition and treatment of the numerous wild animals at the farm but no charges resulted from it.
According to county records, Thompson had 11 misdemeanor charges filed against him -- either animal at large or animal cruelty -- between 2004 and 2009.