Steady rain and falling temperatures kept golfers in east-central Ohio at home Wednesday morning, and it’s probably a good thing.
An extraordinary animal roundup on the outskirts of Zanesville likely would have frayed golfers’ nerves more than any sidehill, downhill putt.
When the owner of a wild-animal preserve was found dead late Tuesday in an apparent suicide, 51 exotic beasts were out of their cages and wandering the nearby countryside.
During the ensuing scramble to catch the animals – lions, tigers, bears and monkeys among them – police killed dozens of the beasts, citing the threat to public safety.
Schools were closed and signs on Interstate 70, the main east-west artery, flashed warnings to motorists: “Caution exotic animals.”
As of late Wednesday morning, only a mountain lion, a grizzly bear and a monkey remained on the loose.
Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said the farm owner, identified as Terry Thompson, apparently opened the cages that housed dozens of dangerous animals and then committed suicide. No other injuries were reported.
“It’s like Noah’s ark wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio,” said Jack Hanna, celebrity zookeeper and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium who attended a morning news conference with officials.
“Luckily, nobody is playing today because of the weather, so we didn’t have to get into any sort of decision-making,” said Mike Walters, an assistant pro at EagleSticks Golf Club in Zanesville.
The club had about 40 to 50 rounds scheduled, he said.
At Crystal Springs Golf Course in Hopewell, about five miles west of the animal preserve, owner Dan Stottsberry said the course was closed but the threat from the animals had his attention. Tuesday night, a bear had been shot on an adjacent farm and course workers heard gunfire.
“If it had been a nice day,” he said, “I don’t think anybody would have wanted to have been on the golf course.”