Police seek escaped exotic animals in Ohio

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — Schools closed and motorists were warned to stay in their vehicles as officers with assault rifles patrolled a rural area in eastern Ohio Wednesday, a day after police killed dozens of escaped animals from a wild-animal preserve, where the owner was found dead.

When asked on NBC’s “Today” show whether Muskingum County Animal Farm owner Terry Thompson may have killed himself, county Sheriff Matt Lutz responded, “Anything’s a possibility at this point.” He said authorities were awaiting autopsy results. Lutz had said earlier that the death was not suspicious.

As authorities warned that more animals still were on the loose, three school districts in the region and some private and special schools canceled classes as the remaining bears, big cats and other beasts from the Muskingum County Animal Farm were hunted down.

Flashing signs along area highways told motorists, “Caution exotic animals” and “Stay in vehicle.”

The animals’ cages had been opened and the farm’s fences had been left unsecured, police said. It was “very possible” that Thompson left the cages open, Lutz said.

Close to 30 of the 48 animals were shot and killed on Tuesday. Officials were pondering how to dispose of the remains.

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