Exotic animal hunt comes to an end

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 12:51pm

With the threat of roaming dangerous animals gone, and his neighborhood out of lock-down, Sam Kopchak can talk about his close encounters.

Sam Kopchak says "I looked and tried to see what was going on, and it was a bear. And I turned, and probably around 30 feet around a wire fence which was just for horses, not for cats, was a big, large, male african lion. Deputy came right up here asked what we saw and there was a wolf down the road, and so he dropped his notebook, went off and they killed like three down here."

And the shooting continued, throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, until all of the 49 released animals had been killed: mountain lions, African lions, monkeys, bears, and 18 Bengal tigers. The sheriff and wildlife experts agree there was no choice but to kill the animals. They say farm owner, Terry Thompson doomed them all by setting them free just before he shot himself in a suicide.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz says "Mr. Thompson did have a bite wound to his head area that the doctor said would be consistant to a bite from a larger type cat."

The carcasses of those 49 animals are now buried here on the farm where they were raised. The locals here, including Thompson's neighbors, are somewhat sympathetic.

Sam Kopchak says "it's a very sad tragedy and I hate the situation. they were animal lovers."

Bill Reiser, Moose Lodge Administrator, says "if you look at the animals were not starving in that situation."

Outsiders are not nearly as forgiving. Tim Harrison, Animal Advocate/Documentarian says "you can buy a tiger but you can't teach common sense."

In the end, everyone's just relieved that a nightmare scenario wasn't any worse.

Sam Kopchak says "it's unbelievable they basically got them all. They could have been everywhere. We could have had a major catastrophe, people could have been killed. It would have a been a terrible situation."

And for the 6 remaining animals rounded up at the farm, a second chance, at the Columbus Zoo.

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