ZANESVILLE, Ohio — Dozens of wild animals — from bears to lions to wolves — were running loose in Muskingum County yesterday, apparently set free from their cages.
Meanwhile, the man who owned the animals was found dead on the wildlife preserve that he ran, authorities said.
What happened to Terry Thompson — and how his animals were all set free — went unanswered last night, as deputies continued to try to round up the creatures. Those that they cornered, they shot, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said.
“Our first responsibility is to protect the public,” Lutz said.
Late last night, Lutz said deputies had killed at least 25 animals, and the sheriff’s office had cordoned off about 5 to 7 square miles in the county. The deputies were being assisted by the State Highway Patrol, authorities from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Wilds, the state Division of Wildlife, the county Emergency Management Agency and township fire departments.
A plan to bring in a patrol helicopter with a thermal-imaging camera to find animals was scuttled last night by stormy weather.