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Exotic animals prowl Ohio, schools closed

From the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed October 19, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Dozens of escaped aniamls are shot dead
  • Ohio owner of exotic animals found dead
  • Bears, lions, tigers, cheetahs and wolves escape
  • Area residents warned to stay indoors

Editor's note: See up-to-the-minute coverage from CNN affiliate WBNS-TV.

(CNN) -- Officials in Muskingham County closed schools as sheriff's deputies equipped with night vision attempted to hunt down dozens of exotic animals, including bears, lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes and camels, who are on the prowl in eastern Ohio following the death of the man at the farm where they lived.

"Deputies are currently patrolling the area in pickup trucks, armed with shotguns," Sheriff Matt Lutz said in a statement. "There are still thought to be several dangerous animals on the loose, creating a public safety threat."

Bears and wolves were spotted along I-70.

Area residents are being advised to stay inside until the dangerous animals are rounded up or killed.

Terry Thompson, the owner of the land and animals, was found dead on the scene outside the home, according to Lutz, who didn't elaborate, Thompson was recently released from prison for an unknown crime.

In 2005, Thompson was sentenced to six months of house arrest and fined him $2,870 for a conviction on abuse of animals.

Some 48 animals had been freed, authorities said, with about two dozen shot dead by deputies.

The Columbus Zoo, The Wilds, a safari-themed park, and Ohio State Police have responded to the incident, according to state police.

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