US police kill escaped lions, tigers and bears

Oct 20, 2011 by Mira Oberman
An Ohio State Highway Patrol officer drives past a sign warning of the exotic animals on the loose from a wildlife preserve October 19, 2011 in Zanesville, Ohio.

Police in the US state of Ohio shot dead dozens of lions, tigers, bears and wolves in a frantic hunt after the owner of an exotic farm freed the dangerous animals and then killed himself.

The bloody toll -- which included 18 endangered Bengal tigers -- sparked outrage from and calls for restrictions on the largely unregulated ownership of exotic pets.

Sheriff Matt Lutz defended his shoot-to-kill order, telling reporters that officers were in a race against the oncoming darkness when they arrived at the farm around 5:30 pm (2130 GMT) Tuesday and saw the wild predators running free.

"Public safety was our number one concern," Lutz said. "We are not talking about your normal, everyday house cat or dog."

He praised the bravery of the men who left their squad cars to confront the animals armed only with handguns, but said he wished they never had to face such a terrible choice.

"These killings were senseless. For our guys to have to do this, it was crazy," Lutz said.

"We don't go to the academy and get trained on how to deal with 300 pound Bengal tigers. I'm just glad they had the courage to get out of their cars."

Game wardens, SWAT teams, and experts from the nearby Columbus Zoo were called in to assist with the hunt as night fell and residents were warned to stay in their homes.

But they only had four tranquilizer guns -- which carried drugs that can sometimes take a while to put a large animal to sleep -- and couldn't risk losing the animals in the dark or the woods.

One "very aggressive" tiger was shot dead on Wednesday morning when it went "crazy" and started to run towards nearby woods after it was shot with a tranquilizer, Lutz said.

"We could not have animals running loose in this county. We were not going to have that," he added.

Of the 56 animals set loose, only six were captured alive: a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys.

The other slain animals included two wolves, six , two , nine male lions, eight lionesses, one mountain bear and a baboon.

At least one of the animals was struck by a vehicle on a nearby highway and the mauled body of a monkey was also recovered.

A monkey that might be infected with Herpes was still unaccounted for, but may also have been eaten by one of the lions.

The animals were buried on the 73-acre farm Wednesday.

It is a "tragedy" that the animals died but officials had no other choice, said Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and the host of an animal television show.

"I'm sorry that this had to be done but if you had 18 Bengal tigers running around in these neighborhoods, you folks would not have wanted to see what happened," Hanna, who helped to organize the hunt, told reporters.

The remaining animals were taken to the zoo but were expected to eventually be returned to the estranged wife of Terry Thompson, 62, who was found dead in the driveway.

Ohio has few laws governing the ownership of exotic animals, but Hanna said he was working with the governor's office to enact regulations to try and prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich issued a statement urging swift passage of a bill restricting the ownership of exotic animals, noting that there have been 22 incidents in the state involving such animals since 2003 including the death of a man last year while feeding a pet bear.

A spokesman for Governor John Kasich told AFP that a task force already working on new rules for exotic animals is expected to have legislation ready within 30 days and defended the decision to shoot-to-kill.

"The safety of the populace has to be the paramount concern -- period," spokesman Rob Nichols told AFP.

Local news reports said federal agents raided the farm in June 2008, seizing more than 100 guns, and that Thompson had previously been fined for letting his animals wander.

But WWF Tiger expert Leigh Henry said the fact remained that people "can go buy a tiger in Ohio" or in seven other states that have no requirement for any kind of license or permit to do so.

"I would say the current patchwork of laws in the United States regulating these captive tigers is inexcusable," she said.

Born Free USA, an animal protection group, said the death of so many should be a call to action against private ownership.

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User comments : 17

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neovenator
5 / 5 (2) Oct 20, 2011
only in America... (sigh)
Sinister1811
1.7 / 5 (12) Oct 20, 2011
Why the hell didn't they just capture them, and hand them over to the freakin zoo?
visual
3 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2011
Sinister1811, you... you didn't read a word beyond the first paragraph before commenting, did you?
Sinister1811
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 20, 2011
I did. It's such a shame, though.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2011
And yet Republican animals are free to roam the streets and continue destroy the American nation.

It's time for a cull.
Sinister1811
1.7 / 5 (11) Oct 21, 2011
I still think it was poorly handled. They could have just darted the animals.
Nerdyguy
1.9 / 5 (7) Oct 21, 2011
I still think it was poorly handled. They could have just darted the animals.


Educate yourself and think before you post. You are blatantly wrong, the experts have explained why, and yet you persist with your ill-founded critique. Jack Freaking Hannah himself said it was a tragedy but that there was "no other choice."

Some of the animals were tranquilized and returned. One was tranquilized, still bolted and had to be put down. There were 56 wild, dangerous animals on the loose in rural Ohio, where all 3 local cops aren't trained to go on safari at a moment's notice.

No one thought this was a wonderful day for those animals, but your incessant whining seeks to shift the blame to those officers who were only doing their best, rather than placing it squarely on the psychotic dog whose actions led to this mess.
Nerdyguy
1.2 / 5 (5) Oct 21, 2011
And yet Republican animals are free to roam the streets and continue destroy the American nation.

It's time for a cull.


Off topic, propagandist rhetoric has no place here.
Sinister1811
1.8 / 5 (13) Oct 21, 2011
I still think it was poorly handled. They could have just darted the animals.


Educate yourself and think before you post. You are blatantly wrong, the experts have explained why, and yet you persist with your ill-founded critique. Jack Freaking Hannah himself said it was a tragedy but that there was "no other choice."


Your attitude reflects that of the typical American - Let's just go out and shoot it. I'd prefer it if you didn't call me uneducated. But since you did, I'm going to assume that you gave this little [if any] thought. It was needless to go out and shoot 75% of the animals because they *might* be of some threat to the public, and the one bolted down but still put down just shows how poorly dealt with this scenario was. I don't care if you disagree or not. The situation was poorly dealt with. Let's just hope there's not a repeat of it in the future.
Nerdyguy
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 22, 2011
Regarding the attitude of the "typical" American - there isn't such a thing. With over 300 million Americans, it would be pretty difficult to define what "typical" is, but you have clearly shown your ignorance by resorting to labeling an entire country as "gun nuts". I do not own a gun, and do not have any particularly strong opinion about guns in any case.

Furthermore, I suspect that you are unfamiliar with Jack Hannah. FYI - he's sort of the American equivalent of that Australian Crocodile Hunter who passed away a few years ago. Considered to be a great authority on the animal kingdom and he was fortunately available as he makes his home in Columbus, Ohio - not too far from where this occurred.

In any case, it's very easy to sit 5000 miles away and critique this after the fact. You weren't there. Some experts were, and considered it to have been handled well under the circumstances.
Daryl
not rated yet Oct 22, 2011
"US police kill escaped lions, tigers and bears"....OH MY!!!!
Callippo
2 / 5 (4) Oct 22, 2011
In any case, it's very easy to sit 5000 miles away and critique this after the fact. You weren't there.
It's true - but we can see, despite the proclamative power and advanced technology the wild animals escaped into civilization face the very same destiny, like at the tribal era. We cannot judge the effort of individual people, who were involved there - but the overall result is still somewhat desolating. Just because it's evident, the next similar accident would end in the same way.
Ojorf
3 / 5 (6) Oct 23, 2011
America has more than 300000000 people and the world almost 7000000000 but only about 1500 Bengal tigers. How do you justify this in the light that no one was even injured and with just a little effort the animals could have been darted.
epsi00
5 / 5 (1) Oct 23, 2011
America has more than 300000000 people and the world almost 7000000000 but only about 1500 Bengal tigers. How do you justify this in the light that no one was even injured and with just a little effort the animals could have been darted.


apparently they don't have helicopters in ohio which they could have used to tranquilize the animals without risking the officers lives. It's so much easier to just kill all of them. what's a bengal tiger after all. or a lion.
Ojorf
1 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2011
And since more than 80% of Americans profess to believe in God they should be happy to provide a meal for an endangered species, meaning they will be in a 'better' place, sitting on a cloud and playing their harps or whatever :D!
jnjnjnjn
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2011
"We don't go to the academy and get trained on how to deal with 300 pound Bengal tigers. I'm just glad they had the courage to get out of their cars."

When someone is talking about 'courage' in this respect, you know it it is totally wrong.
It has been a killing spree, and the 'hunters' loved it.
How much of a coward can you be when you shoot such a beautiful animal.
Its incredible.

J.
Nerdyguy
1 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2011
Fascinating. I posted earlier that propagandist, off-topic rhetoric has no place here. And got two really bad vote-downs. Only two. Wonder who in the world that might be? lmao

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