Hundreds of curiosity-seekers, horse-traders and others have attended an auction of the estate of a suicidal man who released dozens of exotic animals in eastern Ohio almost two years ago.
ZANESVILLE, Ohio - Law enforcement agencies with rifles are scouring the Zanesville area in pouring rain late Wednesday afternoon to find a wolf and monkey still on the loose. The animals escaped along with roughly 45 other exotic animals from a wild-animal preserve. The sheriff's deputies are on a shoot-to-kill mission.
At an impromptu news conference, Sheriff Matt Lutz said a missing grizzly bear and mountain lion were found dead. Lutz said deputies shot the animals Tuesday night, but the animals' bodies were not found until Wednesday afternoon.
Officials said there is still a danger to the public because the wolf and monkey are disoriented away from their cages and could attack people if prompted. Deputies still warned the public to be vigilant.
In another development, the wife of the man who ran the wild-animal preserve was being questioned by authorities at the command center on Kopchak Road in Zanesville. She covered her face as she was led by deputies into questioning.
Animal expert Jack Hanna with the Columbus Zoo said the widow had lost everything -- her husband and her animals.
"She's in a state of shock and she's shaking," Hanna said. He added the widow will help authorities get the remaining monkeys and other animals into crates to take them to the Columbus Zoo.
Representatives from the Columbus Zoo also were looking for the animals. They were hoping to capture the animals with tranquilizers but so far, all of the freed animals have been shot by various law enforcement agencies working around-the-clock to find them. Zoo officials were able to tranquilize some animals at the preserve that were still in enclosures.
Muskingum County Animal Farm owner Terry Thompson killed himself after freeing the animals, the sheriff said. Authorities believe between 48-51 animals were free from the preserve, including lions, bears and wolves.
Some local roads were closed as hunting cars patrolled for the last of the wild animals roaming around the Zanesville area. The hunting cars and local residents were the only ones authorized to drive around signs closing roads.
NewsChannel5 and newsnet5.com have a full news crew on the scene and will keep posting updates as they become available.
Attorneys for Ohio told a federal appeals court Wednesday that the state's exotic animal law gives owners a pathway to keep the creatures if they choose and doesn't violate their constitutional rights.
Owners of exotic animals in Ohio would be required to meet new caging, safety and caretaking standards under proposed rules slated for review Wednesday by a legislative panel.
The types of animals being held at Ohio's new holding facility for exotic creatures won't be released to the public, mainly to deter anyone from trying to gain access to them, state Agriculture Director David Daniels said Thursday.
A federal judge has upheld Ohio's new restrictions on exotic animals after several owners sued the state over the law.