Photo by Jay LaPrete/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Ohio authorities stepped in Thursday to temporarily block the return of six exotic animals to the private zoo that they were freed from last week.
The Associated Press reports that the state Agriculture Department ruled that the animals need to be quarantined while veterinarians figure out whether they are a potential disease threat. While indefinite, the order will prevent Marian Thompson from reclaiming the animals -- which include three leopards and a young grizzly bear -- from the Columbus Zoo on Thursday as she had planned.
Thompson's husband freed the animals, along with dozens of other exotic creatures, from the couple's private farm last week before he committed suicide. Police shot and killed the vast majority of the 56 animals, and the six survivors were taken to the Columbus Zoo to be cared for.
UPDATE Thursday, Oct. 27 at 10:51 a.m.: The six exotic animals that managed to survive what turned into something of a big game hunt in Ohio last week are currently being kept at the Columbus Zoo. But if the wife of the man who freed the animals and dozens others from his private farm before killing himself has her way, the six survivors will soon be coming home.
The woman, Marian Thompson, has notified the zoo that she plans to reclaim the three leopards, two primates and bear that the zoo has been caring for, the Associated Press reports. Zoo experts (and we're guessing many of Thompson's neighbors) don't think that's such a good idea, but they don't appear to have any legal authority to stop it from happening.
"We had hoped Ms. Thompson would leave the animals at the zoo in the care of our team of professionals" Columbus Zoo and Aquarium CEO and president Dale Schmidt told the Marion Star. "We are trying to get authorization from government authorities and agencies to ensure they stay at the Zoo. Unfortunately, the current laws do not protect the animals and at this time we have no legal right to stop them from being taken from the Zoo."
The transfer of the three leopards, two Celebes macaques and young grizzly bear could happen as soon as Thursday, if authorities do not step in and block it from happening.
UPDATE Thursday, Oct. 20 : Police say they are now confident that the missing monkey that was among the 56 exotic animals freed from a private zoo on Tuesday was eaten by one of the other animals during the escape, a CBS affiliate in central Ohio reports. As a result, they have ended the search for the monkey, which was feared to be carrying a virus that could have been fatal to humans.
UPDATE Wednesday, Oct. 19 6:55 p.m.: Ohio police continued Wednesday night to search for an escaped monkey that appears to be the last animal still on the loose after authorities spent hours hunting down scores of exotic animals that had been released overnight from a private zoo.
NBC News reports that a total of 49 animals were killed, most of which were shot dead by Muskingum County Sheriff's deputies out of concern for the safety of the region's residents. The animal body count included 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions, as well six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, two wolves and a baboon. Another six animals were captured alive.
The Associated Press sets the scene: "As homeowners nervously hid indoors, officers equipped with high-powered rifles and shoot-to-kill orders spread out through fields and woods to hunt down about 56 animals that had been set loose from the Muskingum County Animal Farm by its owner, Terry Thompson, before he shot himself to death Tuesday."
Throughout the day Wednesday there were conflicting reports on the number and type of animals still at large, with early reports suggesting that a grizzly bear and a mountain lion were still running free. But police later said that the two animals in question had been killed Tuesday night. Authorities then turned their attention to a monkey and a wolf, later reportedly killing the latter.
The monkey, however, remains free. Authorities are warning residents to stay clear of the animal out of fear that it is carrying the Herpes B virus that, while harmless to monkeys, could prove fatal to humans.
The AP reports that police abandoned plans to use tranquilizer darts to capture the animals Tuesday night out of the fear that the large animals would escape into the woods before the tranquilizers could take effect. "These animals were on the move, they were showing aggressive behavior," Sheriff Matt Lutz said. "Once the nightfall hit, our biggest concern was having these animals roaming."
UPDATE 3:31 p.m.: And then there were two.
Ohio police said Wednesday afternoon that their best guess is that only two of the roughly 50 exotic animals that escaped overnight from a private zoo remain at large: a monkey and a wolf.
A grizzly bear and a mountain lion had been believed to be still running free earlier in the afternoon, but police later discovered that both were killed last night, ABC News reports.
UPDATE 2:01 p.m.: Ohio police say that at least three exotic animals remain on the loose: a grizzly bear, a mountain lion and a monkey.
Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz delivered the news to reporters Wednesday afternoon, although he warned that he can't be certain that those are the only animals that remain unaccounted for.
While police have been scrambling to roundup the remaining animals, ABC News reports that they aren't the only ones weeding out the animal population: One animal, described as a large cat, was hit by a car on the highway and one of the escaped monkeys was apparently eaten by one of the lions.
POST Wednesday, Oct. 19: Zanesville, Ohio is on lockdown. Three school districts were closed Wednesday, motorists were warned to stay in their vehicles and over 50 heavily armed law enforcement officials are scouring the rural area.
The reason? Roughly 50 exotic animals including lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, cougars and bears escaped from a private zoo Tuesday night.
The owner of the Muskingum County Animal Farm, Terry Thompson, was found dead on the property, with the animals’ cages open and the farm’s fences left unsecured, MSNBC reports. It’s a possibility that Thompson committed suicide after opening the cages.
The county sheriff's department administered an overnight shoot-to-kill order for the exotic animals. Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz told ABC News that as of early this morning, his officials had shot and killed 25 animals in what has essentially become a big game hunting expedition.
Between 30 and 35 animals are accounted for, and there may be animals still loose on the property, although anywhere between eight and fifteen animals, many of them big cats, are still roaming the countryside, Reuters reports. Heavy overnight rain only made things worse. The order was lifted Wednesday morning, and police officers armed with tranquilizer guns are continuing their search.
Lutz described the animals found as "mature, very big and aggressive." A bear attacked a police officer overnight and had to be put down. Officers are patrolling the heavily wooded area in cars and trucks, as it is still too dangerous to be out on foot.
Owner Thompson had reportedly been experiencing legal and marital problems. He was only just recently released from prison, and he and his wife are separated.
"He was in hot water because of the animals, because of permits, and (the animals) escaping all the time," his neighbor, Danielle White, told MSNBC. A few weeks ago, she said, she had to avoid some camels which were grazing on the side of a freeway.
Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them.