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Exotic Animal Escapees Terrorize Central Ohio

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 19th, 2011

One of the killed animal escapees is the African lion photographed near the Muskingum County Animal Farm.

Dozens of animals escaped Tuesday [October 18, 2011] from an exotic farm that houses bears, big cats and other beasts. The owner later was found dead there, said police, who shot several of the animals and urged nearby residents to stay indoors.

The fences had been left unsecured at the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, in east-central Ohio, police said.

They wouldn’t say what animals escaped but said the farm had lions, wolves, tigers, giraffes, camels and bears. Officials noted that bears, lions, and wolves are among 25 animals that had been shot and killed.

There have been multiple sightings of exotic animals along Interstate 70.


Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz speaks to the media about exotic animals loose in Zanesville, Ohio. (Trevor Jones / AP Photo / October 18, 2011)

WBNS-TV in Columbus reported the body of the farm’s owner, Terry Thompson, was found Tuesday evening outside his home on the farm property. ABC News is reporting Wednesday morning that authorities have declared the death a suicide.

Four deputies with assault rifles in a pickup truck went to the animal farm, where they found the farm’s owner, Terry Thompson, dead and all the animal cage doors open. He wouldn’t say how Thompson died but said several aggressive animals were near his body and had to be shot.

Thompson, who lived on the property, had orangutans and chimps in cages in his home, but they were still in their cages, Lutz said.

The deputies, who saw many animals standing outside their cages and others that had escaped past the fencing surrounding the property, began shooting them. There had been no reports of injuries among the public.

Staffers from the Columbus Zoo were on the scene hoping to tranquilize and capture the animals.

Sheriff Matt Lutz said people should stay indoors and he might ask for local schools to close Wednesday. He said his main concern was protecting the public.

“Any kind of cat species or bear species is what we are concerned about,” Lutz said. “We don’t know how much of a head start these animals have on us.”

Thanks for the initial news tip from Martin Evans and further info from several individuals.

Needless to say, cryptozoologists must follow stories like this and others about seemingly out-of-context weird animals, errant “crazy crocs,” and alleged “circus train wrecks” to attempt to account for feral out-of-place and escaped animals that may mistakenly be reported as cryptids. ~ Loren

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


9 Responses to “Exotic Animal Escapees Terrorize Central Ohio”

  1. flame821 responds:

    According to the Gawker article they have the SWAT team mobilized to deal with any aggressive animals. And he supposedly had 25+ primates in his house along with a fair amount of assault weapons. Yikes.

    Do have to wonder how he died though. Heart attack versus animal attack. So glad I don’t live anywhere near this area, I can’t imagine having to worry about African Lions crossing my backyard.

  2. coelacanth1938 responds:

    This is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen.
    I’ve been online collecting information about this incident all night. To me at least, the sheriff appears to have had a grudge against the dead man, and I don’t think they really know how many animals were up there.
    At one time according to witnesses, there was over twenty tigers being kept on that farm.

  3. jayman responds:

    Sad. Just sad. Especially if critically endangered species like tigers are involved. I don’t blame the cops – I know they have to protect the public – but it’s good to know the Columbus Zoo has people on the scene. I hope at least some animals can be saved.

    I live in Columbus and my first fear was that The Wilds was involved – it’s in the same county – but this was evidently some private thing I was unaware of.

    Now it’s soapbox time. I know some will criticize me on “constitutional” grounds, but we really have to take a hard look at private ownership of exotic animals by untrained people. It usually ends in tragedy for people and animals alike.

  4. Evo Schandor responds:

    Having spent some time in Muskingum and the county just north of it, Coshocton, I can say that there are a lot of very wild, very remote areas there and to the immediate south and east. If these animals, especially the wolves and bears, get into that area fairly quickly, they may never be caught or killed. Look for a lot of sightings for a lot of years. Also – there have been quite a few Bigfoot sightings in this area over the years (my main reason for spending time in these counties)

  5. recurve responds:

    The latest press release says that all but a grizzly, mountain lion and a monkey have been captured or killed I live in Columbus and it’s raining like crazy should make tracking these animals down interesting. They are also saying they are not 100% sure on the invoice of animals but all the large primates were still caged in the house. This guy let his animals loose and then offed himself.

  6. Hapa responds:

    I hope at least that there was someone or a few people taking blood, semen and other DNA samples from the dead exotics: Tigers, Lions, and others are incredibly threatened in the wild. According to Peter Ward in his book evolution, by the time mankind reaches 9 billion souls many megafauna will be wiped out due to competition for water resources with a ever growing humanity (he named elephants, Hippos (the latter are not even endangered!) and several others as examples of what will be lost :(

    Zoos, legit wildlife preserves and Circuses may be the last stands of animals like elephants and Tigers. Therefore we need every single resource available to keep these animal existant, and both advanced cloning and artificial insemination from dead animals should be on the table (prefer the latter to the former, but we are in a struggle here).

  7. Richard888 responds:

    @ recurve
    The dead animal in the picture looks more like an African lion than a mountain lion.

  8. recurve responds:

    @Richard888
    The animal pictured is an african lion several species of large carnivores were released by the owner of the “preserve” including African lions, tigers, mountain lions, cheetahs, wolves ,grizzly and black bears. After releasing the animals he took his life leaving law enforcement in a tough spot. Most of the animals were destroyed by sheriffs deputies but some were captured and taken by the columbus zoo. All the animals have now been accounted for except one monkey so they say.

  9. coelacanth1938 responds:

    At last count, only a grizzly bear, three leopards, and two monkeys survived this mess. 18 Bengal tigers had to be put down. They think the one missing monkey with the hep c was eaten by another animal.

    Apparently the dead man had shot himself after letting his animals loose.



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