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49 escaped wild animals killed by Ohio deputies

Oct. 19, 2011 at 10:30 PM   |   Comments

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ZANESVILLE, Ohio, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Authorities said they killed 49 lions, tigers, bears and other wild animals released at a private preserve by a Zanesville, Ohio, man who committed suicide.

By Wednesday evening, only one of the exotic and dangerous wild animals released by Terry Thompson -- a monkey said to be infected with Herpes B -- was still unaccounted for, and Muskingun County Sheriff Matt Lutz said he doesn't think it's alive, WCHM-TV, Columbus, reported.

"We're convinced that we do not have any animals running at large," the sheriff said at 8 p.m. "[The monkey] was in an area where one of the cats actually killed one of the monkeys and we feel he could have been eaten by one of the cats."

Authorities said they killed 18 tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, two grizzly bears, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon, WCHM-TV said. The carcasses were buried on the property.

One grizzly, three leopards and two macaques were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the TV station said.

Lutz confirmed Thompson, who operated the 73-acre Muskingum County Animal Farm, committed suicide but he told a morning news conference deputies "haven't found a suicide note at this point," the Zanesville Times Recorder reported

Thompson's body was found Tuesday night.

Lutz said several large cats were found about 400-500 yards from the reserve in several directions.

"We just had a huge tiger, an adult tiger that must've weighed 300 pounds that was very aggressive," the Los Angeles Times quoted Lutz as saying. "We got a tranquilizer in it, and this thing just went crazy.

"We are not talking about your normal everyday house cat or dog. These are 300-pound Bengal tigers that we had to put down. I gave the order ... that if animals looked like they were on their way out, they were put down.

"Public safety is our No. 1 concern," he said.

Lutz said one individual tried to steal one of the animals Tuesday night, but officials recovered the animal and took the person into custody.

Flashing signs along the highway near the preserve warned drivers of the escaped animals. Schools in the area were closed Wednesday morning and residents were advised to stay indoors.

Thompson recently was released from prison after serving a year on a federal weapons conviction. Lutz said he had a permit for the animals he kept and the operation was legal.

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