Authorities in Ohio are warning residents to remain inside their houses after dozens of exotic animals had apparently broken free of an area wildlife farm and taken to the streets and highways. Police haven't said exactly which type of animals are on the loose, but the farm is home to such species as "lions, wolves, tigers, giraffes, camels and bears" reports the AP -- and police say that so far they've killed more than two dozen animals. Adding to the mysterious and troubling situation, investigators are reporting that the owner of the wildlife farm has been found dead on the property, and the animal enclosures appear to have been left open.According to early reports from the Associated Press, the dozens of exotic animals originate from the 40-acre Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio, and that among them are several species which could pose a serious threat to the surrounding community. Officials say police officers are currently on patrol in search of the escaped animals, and that lethal force has already been used:
They said bears and wolves were among 25 animals that had been shot and killed and there were multiple sightings of exotic animals along a highway.
"These are wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa," Sheriff Matt Lutz warned at a press conference.
He called the escaped animals "mature, very big, aggressive" but said a caretaker told authorities the preserve's 48 animals had been fed on Monday. He said police were patrolling the 40-acre farm and the surrounding areas in cars -- not on foot -- and were concerned about big cats and bears hiding in the dark and in trees.
While the cause of the farm owner's death has yet to be disclosed, there have been no reports of injuries from animal attacks outside the farm, though city authorities are warning the public to be on alert to the unusual threat. The sheriff tells the AP that he is considering ordering local schools be closed tomorrow until the escaped animals have been accounted for.
"This is a bad situation," Lutz said.
According to ABC News reporting on the situation in Ohio, police have closed off seven-square-miles in Zanesville as authorities continue to track the animals down with infrared cameras.