Ohio: Exotic animals on the loose in Zanesville

Updated on
Several lions are among the exotic animals that escaped in Zanesville, Ohio.
Dan Kitwood

UPDATE: Ohio police hunted down 51 exotic animals early Wednesday that had been let loose in Zanesville, Ohio, ABC News reports. The county sheriff is not absolutely sure, but he told reporters he thinks only a grizzly bear, mountain lion and a monkey are still roaming free. GlobalPost's advice to Zanesville residents? Don't venture out quite yet.

Police have been hunting escaped bears, wolves and big cats since Tuesday, USA Today reports.

The alarm was raised when empty cages were spotted at the Muskingum County Animal Farm, the doors having been left open.

Farm owner Terry Thompson was also found dead. His death is not being treated as suspicious.

Police have refused to specify which animals are on the loose, but Fox News reports that the farm is known to have had had lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears in its collection.

Several sightings have been reported - though not confirmed - along a nearby highway.

A total of 35 of the more than 50 escaped animals have since been accounted for, Muskingham County Sherriff Matt Lutz told the Associated Press.

He described the beasts as "mature, very big, aggressive" and said police had been shooting them on sight.

Farm caretakers, however, said that all animals had been fed on Monday. They are planning to put food in the empty cages in the hope of luring the escapees back.

In the meantime, police in Zanesville, Ohio, have advised people to stay indoors.

Sherriff Lutz said:

"Any kind of cat species or bear species is what we are concerned about. We don't know how much of a headstart these animals have on us."

Ohio has some of the USA's laxest restrictions on the keeping of exotic animals - and one of the highest rates of injuries and deaths caused by them, notes the Guardian.

Thompson, 61, was given repeated warnings to keep his animals under proper conditions, including 30 in the past year alone, according to ABC News.