ZANESVILLE, OH — Hundreds of wild animals were running loose in Muskingum County, set free from their cages.
Lions, tigers, bears, wolves, panthers, elephants, giraffes – they are all running wild in Ohio!!
The man who owned the animals was found dead on the wildlife preserve that he ran, authorities said.
What happened to Jack Jones — and how his animals were all set free — went unanswered last night, as deputies continued to try to round up the wild beasts. Those that they cornered, they shot, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Workman said.
“Our first responsibility is to protect the public,” Workman said. “And we like shooting game.”
Game hunters from around the world have descended upon Ohio – trying to bag a beast.
Late last night, Workman said deputies had killed at least 290 animals, and the sheriff’s office had cordoned off about 25 to 70 square miles in the county. “Some hyenas got away, but I think every other mammal is contained.”
The deputies were being assisted by the State Highway Patrol, authorities from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Wilds, the state Division of Wildlife, the county Emergency Management Agency and township fire departments.
A plan to bring in a patrol helicopter with a thermal-imaging camera to find animals was scuttled last night by stormy weather. President Obama may authorize the use of drones to kill the wild beasts.
Zanesville, West Muskingum and Maysville school districts, as well as Muskingum County Starlight School, all canceled classes for Wednesday to keep children inside. Workman also recommends that residents remain inside for the rest of the year and call 911 if any wild animal is seen. “Don’t shoot them, we want do all the animal killing ourselves.”
Workman said that fifty-four deputies with assault rifles immediately went to 270 Kopchak Rd., where a 46-acre “wild-animal-rescue farm” owned by Jones” borders I-70.
There, Workman said, they found Jones dead outside his house and “every single animal-cage door open.” Workman said the deputies saw a number of animals standing outside their cages, still on the property, while many others had escaped a fence that surrounds Jones’ property. There were several pandas sitting in the barn, just waiting to be rescued.
Deputies immediately began shooting animals – “anything that moved, that wasn’t human, was a target.”
It’s unclear how many had gotten beyond the fence, which Workman said isn’t designed to keep in wild animals. Some even thought they saw Bigfoot running through a field.
Workman said a man who is a caretaker on the animal preserve told deputies that 480 animals lived in cages outside the house on the property. More animals — mostly monkeys, baboons, apes and kangaroos — lived inside Jones’s house. There were hundreds of snakes, too. And a white dolphin was in the backyard swimming pool.
“Those inside the house were still in the cages,” Workman said. “Except the monkeys. They were inside the kitchen making oatmeal.”
The animals that were set loose included grizzly and black bears, wolves, and several species of large cats, including lions, tigers and cheetahs, and elephants, hippos, antelope, zebras and very large baboons, among other wild beasts.
Late last night, there was a report of a wolf and a polar bear still roaming at least 7 miles from the farm property.
SWAT officers with night-vision equipment were searching for animals in Licking County early this morning – shooting to kill.
Workman said Muskingum County deputies had fatally shot and killed at least 270 animals when they first drove to the property. A wolf and bear also reportedly were killed along I-70. Hundreds of squirrels committed suicide – because they feared they were about to be shot.
Officials from the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds came in shortly after the discovery with tranquilizer guns, hoping to capture some animals alive. But they would have to get to the animals before the Deputies did.
Neighbors had lodged numerous complaints about Jones for letting his animals wander. Jones had been put on house arrest for six months and paid a $2,870 fine in that case. He also was ordered to move his animals to bigger land – and to write “I will not cage wild animals” five hundred times.
Ohio has no rules regulating the sale and ownership of wild animals.
Kate Williams, 27, who lives in western Muskingum County, said that Jones has had lions, tigers and a bear get loose in the past.
Williams’s family owns a feed cattle farm nearby and said that Jones would come and take their dead cows to feed his lions.
“He’d have claw marks all over him,” she said.
Williams said she understands that Jones’s wife, Wendy, recently left her husband and moved out. The animals stayed and now… they are free!