Update 4:10 p.m.:   The AP is reporting that "after an all-night hunt that extended into the afternoon, 48 animals had been gunned down and six captured alive and taken to the Columbus Zoo, authorities said. As of midafternoon, the only animals still on the loose were a wolf and a monkey, according to the sheriff's office."

 

Dozens of tigers, wolves, mountain lions, cheetahs, bears, and other beasts escaped from a wildlife preserve in southern Ohio town overnight. The exotic animals got loose sometime before 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday night, prompting police to go big-game hunting and shoot dead about 30 of the estimated 48 escaped animals, according to Associated Press and ABC News reports. The AP said the mayhem started when the Muskingum County Animal Farm owner Terry Thompson was found dead:

He said four deputies with assault rifles in a pickup truck went to the animal farm, where they found the owner Thompson dead and all the animal cage doors open.

He wouldn't say how Thompson died but said several aggressive animals were near his body when deputies arrived and had to be shot.

Police orders have been to kill the animals until daybreak, as tranquilization is too risky to try at night. The residents of the 25,000-person town of Zanesville have been told to stay indoors until all the beasts are accounted for.

Update: In another tragic turn, we now know the cause of the preserve owner's death and the reason the cages were unlocked: "Thompson freed the animals from their pens and then shot himself," the town's mayor told CNN.