Bizarre big game hunt ends in blood bath as nearly FIFTY animals running wild in Ohio shot dead after reserve owner set them free before shooting hims

Tragic: Sheriff's deputies shot nearly 50 wild animals - including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions - across the state's countryside on Wednesday

Sheriff's deputies shot nearly 50 wild animals - including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions - in a big-game hunt across the state's countryside on Wednesday after the owner of an exotic-animal park threw their cages open and committed suicide in what may have been one last act of spite against his neighbors and police.

As homeowners nervously hid indoors, officers armed with high-powered rifles and shoot-to-kill orders fanned out through fields and woods to hunt down 56 animals that had been turned loose from the Muskingum County Animal Farm by owner Terry Thompson before he shot himself to death on Tuesday.

Dead: Owner of the animals Terry Thompson was found dead by police at the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, but cause of death has not been determined

After an all-night hunt that extended into Wednesday afternoon, 48 animals were killed. Six others - three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys - were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo. A wolf was later found dead, leaving a monkey as the only animal still on the loose.

Stench of death: Numerous carcasses lie on the ground at the barn of Muskingum County Animal Farm after dozens of exotic beasts were freed last night

Those destroyed included six black bears, two grizzlies, a wolf, a baboon and three mountain lions. Dead animals were being buried on Thompson's farm, officials said.

TV personality and former director of the Columbus Zoo Jack Hanna lamented: 'It's like Noah's Ark wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio.'

Temporary graveyard: The bodies of various dead animals were seen on Terry Thompson's property in Zanesville, Ohio on Wednesday

Mr Hanna defended the sheriff's decision to kill the animals but said the deaths of the Bengal tigers were especially tragic. There are only about 1,400 of the endangered cats left in the world, he said.

'When I heard 18, I was still in disbelief,' he said. 'The most magnificent creature in the entire world, the tiger is.'

As the hunt dragged on outside of Zanesville, population 25,000, schools closed in the mostly rural area of farms and widely spaced homes 55 miles east of Columbus. Parents were warned to keep children and pets indoors. And flashing signs along highways told motorists, 'Caution exotic animals' and 'Stay in vehicle.'

Dead: Authorities are still trying to capture or kill the exotic animals that escaped and have accounted for around 43 of them

Officers were ordered to kill the animals instead of trying to bring them down with tranquillizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and would later regain consciousness.

Carcass: The body of a lion, thought to have been shot dead by police, lies in the undergrowth close to the reserve

Today: Terry Thompson's property, where dozens of large exotic animals including tigers, lions and bears were hunted down and shot after their owner opened their cages at his Ohio farm

Locator: Map showing where the farm the animals escaped from is located

Hunt: Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz speaks to the media after dozens of exotic animals escaped an enclosure in Zanesville, Ohio

source: dailymail