Dozens of exotic animals, including monkeys, bears, wolves and tigers, escaped from the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio, apparently set free by the owner who may have killed himself, according to Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz.
"These are wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa," Sheriff Lutz said at a press conference. He said police were most concerned about big cats and bears hiding in the dark and in trees.
The animal farm is about 88 miles east of Columbus.
More than 50 law enforcement officials armed with assault rifles patrolled the rural area and hunted down the animals. As of Wednesday morning, 31 of the 48 animals had been shot and killed.
Wildlife expert Jack Hanna, who was on the scene to help authorities recover the animals, said on 'Good Morning, America' that police had to kill the animals because it was too hard to to shoot them with a tranquilizer at night, but not a bullet, apparently.
"Human life has to come first, but that's what we have to look for. We have to take care of our animal life. You cannot tranquilize an animal at night. It's hard enough during the daytime," Hanna claimed.
Residents were warned that animals were still on the loose and several school districts in the area cancelled classes to minimize the risk to students.
Flashing signs were placed along local highways warning drivers to stay in their vehicles due to the risk from the exotic animals.
There were no reports of any attacks, or of injuries to residents, but Sheriff Lutz advised people to stay in their homes, and sent updates via Twitter.