The Muskingum County sheriff said it appears the owner of an exotic animal farm set his animals loose before killing himself, according to the Associated Press.
Television stations in Columbus report the body of owner Terry Thompson was found Tuesday outside his home on the farm property. Police say the fences had been left unsecured at the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville.
Police are still actively searching for some of the dangerous escaped animals, which at one point included bears, lions and wolves. They say bears and wolves have been shot and killed and there were multiple sightings of exotic animals along Interstate 70.
"There were grizzly bears and black bears there. There were cheetahs, lions, tigers. Those were the primary things we would be concerned with. Any kind of cat species and any kind of bear species right now is what we're mainly concerned with," Sheriff Matt Lutz told NBC4 in Columbus.
Staffers from the Columbus Zoo are on the scene hoping to tranquilize and capture the animals , while law enforcement officers have been authorized to "shoot to kill."
Published reports state Zanesville, West Muskingum, Foxfire Community and Maysville schools were closed Wednesday as a result of the ongoing issue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.