As many as 48 "mature, very big, agressive" exotic animals—including lions, cheetahs, tigers, apes, wolves and bears—have escaped from a Ohio farm whose owner was found dead earlier today. On the bright side, school's been cancelled tomorrow!

So, no one seems to know what happened to Terry Thompson, who owned an enormous animal farm in Muskingum County, Ohio, and was found dead outside earlier today by authorities investigating reports of exotic animal sightings along nearby I-70. But! Whatever about Thompson, for now, because there are lions running loose in Ohio:

In a press conference tonight, the sheriff [Matt Lutz] said his office was urging people in Muskingum County to take caution if they go outside, and Lutz said they were recommending that some local school districts close Wednesday morning. He said authorities were mainly concerned with lions, bears and cheetahs that were reported to be at the animal farm. There were reportedly 48 animals at the farm.

Lutz described the animals as "mature, very big, aggressive."


The animals' caretaker has been talking to authorities. Lutz said Thompson had some animals in the house— mainly monkeys, baboons and apes — that were still there when authorities arrived. Authorities believe they have shot 25 animals tonight, including bears and wolves.

As we noted several schools have cancelled classes tomorrow, and apparently a SWAT team has been called in to help deal with the situation alongside local zoo workers. "These are wild animals, wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa," Lutz noted.

Thompson, whom a local tipster describes as a "crazy old man," was well-known in the area not only for his animal collection but also his enormous assault weapon collection, which earned him a year-long sentence in jail in 2008. "The gossip," we're told, "is that his wife had left him (as she should have done decades ago) while he was away."

[Columbus Dispatch, Zanesville Times-Recorder, 10TV, NewsNet5]