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Wild Animals Escape From Preserve In Ohio, Prompting Hunt

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(credit: AP Photo/Heather Ellers and Dustin Burton)

(credit: AP Photo/Heather Ellers and Dustin Burton)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Memo to the Bronx Zoo Cobra Mia: Be glad you escaped here, not there.

New Yorkers were understandably concerned when Mia busted out of her enclosure, but took the escape in stride – even laughing along with her bogus Twitter account. In Zanesville, Ohio, however, the situation has taken a much more serious – and deadly – turn.

Police there have killed dozens of exotic animals that escaped from an animal preserve.  Police said it appears the preserve’s owner Terry Thompson freed all the animals and then killed himself.

Not only were the cages open, but the park’s fences weren’t secured.

Bears, lions, tigers, wolves, cheetahs and other exotic animals all escaped, prompting some local schools to shut down. Warning signs along area roads are flashing “Caution exotic animals” and “Stay in vehicle.”

Authorities are shooting the escaped animals. About 35 of the 48 animals have been shot dead. Police said up to 44 of the animals were “accounted for.”

In a news conference Wednesday morning, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said all but three of the animals, a mountain lion, a grizzly bear and a monkey, were all accounted for.

Lutz said all of the animals were “mature, very big, aggressive” adding they had been fed on Monday.

On the CBSNewYork.com Facebook page, Tri-State Area residents expressed concern about the response.

Kate Genovese wrote “Can’t they use tranquilizers and bring them to the zoo?”

“It’s a shame they are simply just shooting all the animals instead of doing what they can to safely capture them,” wrote David Zweier.

“I think it’s awful how this was handled,” wrote Debbie Tsamasiros of Staten Island.

Lutz was asked about that at the news conference and said he gave the order to shoot the animals to protect the public.

“We had animals outside that fenced area along the road that were trying to get loose,” he said. “I had deputies that had to shoot animals with their sidearms at close range, that’s how volatile this situation was. We are not talking about your normal, everyday house cat or dog. These were 300-pound Bengal tigers that we had to put down.” 

For more on the escape, check out coverage from our colleagues at CBSNews.com.

Do you think the response to the escape is appropriate? Sound off in our comments section.

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