A sign warning motorists that exotic animals are on the loose rests on I-70 Wednesday, near Zanesville, Ohio. Police with assault rifles stalked a mountain lion, grizzly bear and monkey still on the loose after authorities said their owner apparently freed dozens of wild animals and then killed himself. (AP-Yonhap News)
ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ Police with orders to shoot to kill left 48 tigers, lions, and other wild animals dead Wednesday after their owner freed dozens of exotic beasts from his game preserve and then killed himself. Authorities don't know why he did it.
Officers with assault rifles stalked the animals overnight through the wooded rural area and were still searching for one last wolf and monkey still on the loose Wednesday afternoon. Area residents were told to stay indoors.
``This was a very, very bad situation,'' County Sheriff Matt Lutz told a news conference. ``These animals were on the move, and they were showing aggressive behavior.''
Animal bodies were seen scattered near a barn on the game preserve, and they were later buried there. Lutz said that it appeared Muskingum County Animal Farm owner Terry Thompson opened the farm's cages and gates and shot himself.
Startled deputies arriving on the scene Tuesday night saw aggressive animals near Thompson's body and outside the farm's fence and started shooting. The preserve also had cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and grizzly bears, among others.
``To have no one hurt and killed here with 40-something animals loose was unbelieveable,'' Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo, told CNN. ``This was like a bunch of loaded guns running around here.''
Also among the dead were 18 Bengal tigers, two grizzly bears and 17 lions.
It was as if Noah's Ark had wrecked in the middle of the United States, Hanna said. He stressed the danger of letting the animals roam.
``If you had 18 Bengal tigers running around, you folks wouldn't want to see what would happen,'' Hanna added.
Six surviving animals, including a grizzly bear, were taken to the Columbus Zoo.
Amid the confusion, there were multiple sightings of exotic animals up to about 10 miles (16 kilometers) away. ``Some sort of cat'' was hit and wounded on a local highway, Lutz said.
The sheriff defended the shootings, saying police had just an hour or so before sundown Tuesday and weren't carrying tranquilizer darts.
Even when one 300-pound (135-kilogram) animal was shot with a tranquilizer dart after animal authorities arrived, the animal ``went crazy,'' ran off and had to be shot, Lutz said.
Hanna defended the sheriff against criticism that the animals should have been captured alive.
``What was he to do at nighttime with tigers and lions, leopards, going out there?'' Hanna said. ``In the wild, this would be a different situation.''
Authorities would not say how Thompson killed himself, and no suicide note was found. Lutz said the sheriff's office had received numerous complaints since 2004 about animals at the property. Thompson had gotten out of federal prison just last month after serving a year for possessing unregistered guns.
Lutz told CNN that he had feared someday finding Thompson dead at his farm from an animal attack.
Ohio has some of the United States' weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them.
Neighbor Danielle White, whose father's property abuts the animal preserve, said Thompson had been in trouble because of repeated animal escapes. White said.
A few weeks ago, she had to avoid some camels grazing on the side of a freeway.
``It's always been a fear of mine knowing (the preserve's owner) had all those animals,'' she said. ``I have kids. I've heard a male lion roar all night.''
John Ellenberger, another neighbor, speculated that Thompson freed the animals to get back at neighbors and police.
``Nobody much cared for him,'' Ellenberger said.
美 농장주 호랑이 등 야생동물 수십마리 방사
오하이오주 농장 일대 학교 휴교 등 대혼란‥주민 공포에 떨어
이웃주민에 복수의도로 추정…방사후 농장주는 자살
미국 오하이오주의 한 농장에서 사자와 호랑이, 곰을 포함한 야생 동물 수십 마리가 풀려나 주민들이 공포에 떨면서
19일(현지시간) 이를 잡기 위한 대대적인 사살 작전이 벌어졌다.
현지 경찰에 따르면 전날 밤 오하이오주 제인스빌의 농장주 테리 톰슨(62)이 자 살 직전 키우던 야생동물 56마리를 풀어주면서 학교가 문을 닫는 등 이 일대 지역이 마비됐다.
신고를 받고 출동한 경찰은 톰슨이 현장에서 자살한 채 발견됐으며 유서는 없었 다고 밝혔다.
또 야생 동물들이 우리를 뛰쳐나와 도망치고 있어 사태 해결을 위해 멸종 위기 종인 벵갈 호랑이 18마리를 포함해 흑 곰과 늑대 등 49마리를 사살했다고 말했다.
현지 보안관 매트 러츠는 "처음에는 진정제를 쏘아 제압하려고 했지만 동물들이 매우 크고 사나워 사살할 수밖에 없었다"고 당시 상황을 전했다.
사살된 동물들은 농장에 매장됐으며 표범 3마리와 회색곰 1마리를 포함해 생포 한 6마리는 콜럼버스 동물원에 인계됐다.
경찰은 그러나 헤르페스 B 바이러스 보균이 의심되는 마카크 원숭이 1마리가 여 전히 잡히지 않고 있어 주의가 필요하다고 덧붙였다.
자살한 동물 소유주 톰슨은 2004년부터 동물 학대로 11차례 기소된 바 있으며 불법 무기 소지 혐의로 유죄 선고를 받고 복역하다 지난달 풀려났다.
경찰은 톰슨의 농장에서 야생동물이 멋대로 길러지고 있으며 동물 학대가 있다 는 신고가 이전에도 수십 차례 들어왔었다며 농장이 골칫거리였다고 밝혔다.
농장 인근에 사는 다니엘 화이트도 동물들이 도망치는 바람에 톰슨이 곤란을 겪 은 적이 이전에도 있었다고 진술했다.
또 다른 이웃 존 엘런버거는 "누구도 톰슨에게 관심을 두지 않았다"며 톰슨이 이웃과 경찰에 복수하기 위해 동물들을 풀어준 것 같다고 말했다.