Dozens of wild animals were hunted down and killed after their owner released them from their cages on a private Ohio preserve farm.
An estimated 51 animals with a range of tigers, lions, cheetahs and bears had escaped the compound.
“It’s like Noah’s Ark wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio,” said Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo who attended a morning press conference with officials.
Zanesville Mayor Howard Zwelling said he got a call from the city’s safety director around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday that Terry Thompson, the farm’s owner had set the animals free. By daylight, Zanesville residents were being asked to stay inside.
Thompson, who killed himself after setting the animals free, did not leave a suicide note. Zwelling said the farm owner cut the gates on the pens so the animals could not be put back inside their cages. According to USA Today, Sheriff Matt Lutz painted a horrifying picture of animals running wild when officers arrived on the scene.
“Deputies were shooting animals at close range with side-arms,” he said. The sheriff said deputies did not have tranquilizer guns.
CNN reported that Tom Stalf, the CEO of the Columbus Zoo said officials had a hard time shooting the animals because of the rough terrain: “When we’re using tranquilizer darts, we have to have a clear area to sedate the animal and once the animal is injected with the dart it still takes up to eight minutes for the drug to take effect.”
“Mature, very large and aggressive” were words Lutz used to describe the animals.
Many commented that they were concerned that the animals had to be killed.
“It’s breaking my heart, them shooting those animals,” said Bill Weiser in USA Today at a nearby Moose Lodge.
Since 2005, the department has had about 35 calls since 2005 from animals running wild. A rural area 55 miles east of Columbus, Zanesville has a population of 25,586.