Terry Thompson, who owned a wildlife preserve in Zanesville, Ohio, set free 50-some animals, including lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels, and bears, before, investigators believe, he committed suicide. His body was found on Tuesday evening after police went to the preserve to follow up on reports of wild animals running free. A black bear, a wolf, and a mountain lion reached a field near Interstate 70…and a mountain lion, a grizzly bear, and a monkey remain at large, reports the Wall Street Journal. Flashing signs were posted on highways in the area telling drivers “Caution exotic animals” and “Stay in vehicle.”
Making this sad story sadder is the fact that officials had to “shoot to kill” most of the animals last night because, as Jack Hanna said on Good Morning America today, it isn’t safe to tranquilize them in the dark.
“You cannot tranquilize an animal like this, a bear or a leopard or a tiger [at nighttime],” Mr. Hanna….”If you do that, the animal gets very excited, it goes and hides, and then we have his [Lutz’s] officer in danger of losing their life, and other people.”
According to Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz, the animals were “mature, very big, aggressive” — but had been fed on Monday. Which is good? Not good?
Thompson also had orangutans and chimps in his home, but they were still in their cages when the police investigated. Un-fun fact: “Ohio has some of the nation’s weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them.”