“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”
Those creatures had Dorothy worried on the yellow brick road in "The Wizard of Oz" – and now you may need to worry about seeing them and other large carnivores in your backyard, an Ohio State University researcher says.
OK, there shouldn’t be any tigers – they aren’t found in the wild in North America – but lions (mountain), bears, wolves and coyotes are finding urban areas to be just right for a comfortable existence, says Stan Gehrt, an associate professor of environment and natural resources.
Gehrt says coyotes are leading the urban invasion by formerly rural carnivores.
“The coyote is the test case for other animals. Raccoons, skunks, foxes – they’ve already been able to penetrate the urban landscape pretty well. The coyote is the most recent and largest,” Gehrt said in a university press release.
One pack of coyotes has established a territory and is thriving about five miles from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the third busiest airport in the country, according to Budget Travel.
[Updated 3:31 p.m. ET] A grey wolf and a monkey were still on the loose 19 hours after authorities began hunting down animals released from a farm outside Zanesville, Ohio, a local sheriff told reporters Wednesday.
"We have 48 animals that are dead and those were animals that were released or got out of dens," said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz. Authorities were able to save six animals, which are being transported to the Columbus zoo, he said.
The animals were among 56 exotic animals released Tuesday from Terry Thompson's farm outside Zanesville.
Thompson, 62, was found dead and authorities were waiting on the results of an autopsy, Lutz said. But he added that preliminary investigations indicated Thompson released his animals and then died from a self-inflicted wound. He had pried open cages and left the farm's fences open.
Animals that had to be put down around the owner's 78-area property in eastern Ohio include 18 tigers, nine lions, six black bears, three mountain lions and two baboons, Lutz said.
Flashing signs on the highways in eastern Ohio warned motorists Wednesday: "Caution. Exotic animals."
Schools shuttered and some frightened residents said they were keeping to their homes as sheriff's deputies hunted lions, tigers, leopards and grizzly bears that escaped from a preserve after the death of the owner.
Lutz said his deputies, who found themselves in a volatile situation, had to shoot some of the animals at close range. A Bengal tiger was put down after it got agitated from a tranquilizer shot.
"We are not talking about your normal everyday house cat or dog," Lutz said. "These are 300-pound Bengal tigers that we have had to put down. "When we got here, obviously, public safety was my number one concern. We could not have animals running loose in this county."See CNN's latest coverage
The first wild mountain lion confirmed in Connecticut in 100 years traveled to the northeastern state from the Black Hills of South Dakota, Connecticut officials say.
The mountain lion was killed when a car struck it in Milford, Connecticut, on June 11. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said genetic tests proved the animal's origin. Connecticut has no native population of mountain lions.
"This mountain lion traveled a distance of more than 1,500 miles from its original home in South Dakota – representing one of the longest movements ever recorded for a land mammal and nearly double the distance ever recorded for a dispersing mountain lion," agency Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said in a news release.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service Wildlife Genetic Laboratory in Missoula, Montana, matched DNA taken from droppings, blood and hair found at the location of mountain lion sightings in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010 with DNA taken from the Milford animal, Connecticut authorities reported. Other mountain lion sightings in Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as Michigan are believed to be of the same animal, authorities said.
Police and wildlife officers in Canton, Ohio, were still looking Tuesday for a mountain lion reportedly seen roaming the area on Independence Day.
The first panicky call about the big predator came in about 4:45 p.m. Monday, Canton police Capt. David Kurzinsky said.
Stark County sheriff's deputies joined the search after sightings came in from outside the city, and an Ohio State Highway Patrol plane was employed, Kurzinsky said. They didn't find anything.
"We don't believe it's a hoax, but right now none of our officers are seeing what (callers) are seeing," he said.
Calls continued to come in Tuesday. They seemed to indicate that the animal is moving east, toward the town of Louisville.