Police seek escaped exotic animals in Ohio

By Andy Brownfield

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 19 2011 6:10 a.m. MDT

A dead lion lays by the fence on Terry Thompson's farm near Zanesville Ohio Tuesday Oct. 18, 2011. Police killed dozens of animals Tuesday that escaped from the wild-animal preserve where the owner's body later was found. Warning that more animals still were on the loose, officials expected up to four school districts to cancel classes as the remaining bears, big cats and other beasts from the Muskingum County Animal Farm were hunted down.

Heather Ellers and Dustin Burton, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — An Ohio sheriff says it's possible the owner killed himself at an Ohio wild-animal preserve where cages were opened and dozens of animals escaped.

When asked on NBC's "Today" show Wednesday whether farm owner Terry Thompson may have taken his own life, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz would only say: "Anything's a possibility at this point." He said authorities are awaiting autopsy results.

Police have killed dozens of animals. Lutz says he believes up to 35 of the 48 loose bears, big cats and other beasts have been accounted for. He says daylight will allow for a more accurate count.

Deputies responding to the initial reports of wild animals found Thompson dead Tuesday.

Schools are closed in the region on Wednesday and flashing highway signs are telling motorists: "Caution exotic animals."

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