The owner of a private zoo in Ohio, Terry Thompson, was found dead on Tuesday. Following his death, a number of the animals, including grizzly bears, wolves, lions, tigers and cheetahs, escaped from the zoo, the BBC reported.
The police, after confirming that the owner was dead, began shooting the animals.
Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz issued a shoot-to-kill order to his deputies and up to 25 animals were shot, WCMH-TV of Columbus reported. Officials said dozens of animals could still be on the loose.
According to official statements, while bears and wolves have been killed, multiple exotic animals have been sighted along Interstate 70.
Lutz, who described the animals as mature, very large and aggressive, warned residents near Kopchak Road and Interstate 70 to use caution and stay inside their houses, WCMH reported.
These are exotic animals that are mostly seen on TV in Africa, Lutz warned residents at a press conference.
Police said the fences at Thompson's Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville had been left unsecured. Who was responsible was as yet unknown.
Public safety is the number one priority. This is a bad situation, it's been a bad situation for a long time, Lutz added.
Lutz added that officials were concerned about the residents because big cats and bears might be hiding in the dark and on trees.
Police were patrolling the 40-acre farm and its surroundings, and schools in the area were closed for Wednesday.
Any kind of cat species or bear species is what we are concerned about. We don't know how much of a head start these animals have on us, Lutz told WBNS-TV.
At about 5.30 p.m. officials started getting phone calls suggesting that the animals were on the run just west of Zanesville on Kopchak Road.