Published October 19, 2011
Authorities in Ohio said they successfully killed 49 of the 56 animals that were released from a wild-animal preserve, ranging from brown bears to Bengal tigers, before any reported injuries in the area.
A monkey believed to be infected with Herpes-B was the last holdout, but police say it could have been eaten by one of the other escaped animals.
"We're convinced that we do not have any animals running at large," the Sheriff's office told NBC4.
Sheriffs in Zanesville, Ohio, a mostly rural area about 55 miles east of Columbus, have been working with zoo officials and wildlife expert Jack Hanna and agreed on a shoot-to-kill order, considering the immediate danger presented to the community.
"If you had 18 Bengal tigers running around this area, you folks wouldn't want to see what would happen," Hanna said at a press conference.
The deceased animals include a wolf, six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, a baboon, three mountain lions and 18 tigers, authorities said. They were buried at the location they were killed.
Authorities were able to transport six animals to the Columbus Zoo, a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys.
The animals escaped from the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville after the owner threw their cages open and committed suicide, authorities said.
Mike Dodd with the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office told FoxNews.com that authorities are urging the public to "keep your eyes open."
Schools were also closed, parents were warned to keep children and pets indoors and flashing signs along highways told motorists, "Caution exotic animals" and "Stay in vehicle."
Neighbor Danielle White, whose father's property abuts the Muskingum County Animal Farm, said she didn't see loose animals this time but did in 2006, when a lion escaped.
"It's always been a fear of mine knowing (the owner) had all those animals," she said. "I have kids. I've heard a male lion roar all night."
The owner of the preserve, Terry Thompson, left the cages open and the fences unsecured, releasing dozens of animals, including lions, tigers, bears and wolves, before committing suicide, said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz. His body was discovered in the driveway.
Authorities would not say how he killed himself and no suicide note was found. Lutz wouldn't speculate on why he committed suicide. But Thompson had had repeated run-ins with the law, and Lutz said the sheriff's office had received numerous complaints since 2004 about animals at the property.
Authorities had difficulty entering the property because wild animals could be seen at its entrance, authorities said. The first responding officers used their handguns to help contain the animals.
"This is a bad situation," the sheriff said. "It's been a situation for a long time."
FoxNews.com's Cristina Corbin, the Associated Press and Newscore contributed to this report.