US Sheriffs Go Big Game Hunting

Posted October 19th, 2011 at 8:30 am (UTC-5)
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Wild animals – including lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves and bears – are roaming farmland in the central U.S. state of Ohio following their escape from an animal preserve.

Police in the eastern town of Zanesville said sheriffs went to the Muskingum County Animal Farm late Tuesday after getting reports of dangerous animals on the prowl. They said some of the animals immediately went after the officers and were shot on sight.

Sheriff Matt Lutz said about 30 of the 48 animals had been shot. Teams of sheriff's deputies, police and wildlife officials are hunting for the rest.

Officials say their orders are shoot-to-kill. But the teams have been joined by staffers from the nearby Columbus Zoo, who are hoping to help tranquilize the animals.

Schools in the area are closed for the day and signs along area highways are warning drivers to stay inside their vehicles.

Police said the farm's owner was found dead near some of the open cages. They have not determined a cause of death.

Police have identified the owner as 62-year-old Terry Thompson. They said he had recently been released from prison, where he had served time on a weapons-related charge.

Officials at Thompson's farm said he had also kept camels and giraffes on the property in the past.

Orangutans and chimpanzees kept in cages inside Thompson's home did not escape.