Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Ohio!

A few days ago James at hellinahandbasket had a post that awakened memories and nightmares.

When I was a kid Walt Disney made a movie called A TIGER WALKS. It was about a circus tiger that escapes from its transport truck enroute to the next show. In the process the tiger killed its abusive handler, but truth be told every kid in the audience was cheering for the tiger. Problem is now there was a tiger loose in the woods of Middle America.

The hero of the movie was the local Sheriff, played by Brian Keith. The Governor complicates matters by sending in the National Guard. While seeking the tiger in a heavy fog one of the soldiers accidently shots a civilian, wounding him thank goodness. The Governor is persuaded to call off the National Guard and give Keith a crack at bringing down the tiger with a tranquilizer gun.
The plan didn’t come off without a hitch. There is a delay between hitting the tiger with the tranquilizer gun and the tiger going to sleep. Keith was raked on one arm before the tiger ran out of steam, but it was ‘just a flesh wound Ma’am.’ There have been dozens of such movies, but this one was my first.

Sadly, things go a lot smother in the movies than in real life.
A couple of days ago an Ohio man named Terry Thompson set in motion a nightmare scenario the wildest Hollywood director would never have dreamed of. For reasons best known to himself Thompson released his considerable collection of exotic animals into the woods around his ranch near Zanesville, Ohio before he took his own life. The net is overflowing with theories as to why. I never knew Mr. Thompson and will not pretend to be qualified to understand his motives.

Hats off to the Ohio authorities who sprang into action as soon as they were alerted to the dangerous situation. School was canceled and folks who were home in the danger area were advised to stay inside. If you were away from home, don’t hurry back! The animals were tracked down and dealt with by the safest and most efficient means. You must remember that Thompson’s collection was not tame pets. They were wild animals that spent their lives in cages. That makes them more dangerous than their counterparts in the wild – they had no fear of humans. So what did Thompson release and what was their fate? The numbers and sprcies of the animals vary from source to source. What follows is my best information at this writing. Read on;
There was one Baboon in the collection. It was killed. Why you might ask? Take a good look at this picture.
There were also three monkeys but I haven’t found a listing of species. Two were captured and one may have been killed, or is still at large. It looks like one of the cats may have gotten that one.

The collection had also included at least two wolves. Both were taken down by hunters.

I have had the privilege of seeing Grizzly Bears in the wild and have always been delighted there were no wild ones running free in Texas. The thought of a Grizzly running loose even in the countryside of Ohio is horrifying. Thompson released two!I was glad to learn one of them was captured unharmed. The second was not so fortunate.
There were three Cougars in the collection. All of them had to be put down. Before any of you express outrage, remember the jogger in California a few
years ago. Being a child of the 50’s I grew up with stories of hunters tracking man-eaters. Leopards figured prominently in these tales. I was stunned that three of them had been released, and pleasantly surprised to learn all three had been re-captured. Of all the animals released I didn’t expect a happy end for these. A Tiger Walks dealt with the panic and mayhem of one escaped tiger. Thompson released EIGHTEEN of them. This could have been a disaster. For the tigers it was, none of them survived.
There were six Black Bears in the mass release. Unlike the Grizzlies, all were put down by authorities.
Last but not least were the African Lions. Again I get different numbers, but I think there were nine males, and eight lionesses. As near as I can tell they were all destroyed. I know a lot of you are saying "with tranquilizer guns these creatures could have been saved."

Part of the problem is time and place. If a dangerious animal is spotted it has to be dealt with then. I don't know about where you live, but the Police and Sheriff's Department in Falls County, Texas don't have tranquilizer guns in their cars. By the time someone gets to your location with a dart gun the Lion or Black Bear you've spotted could be long gone - doing God knows what.

The other problem is darts are not universal. A dart that will work on a Tiger for example will kill a Wolf, but only make a Grizzly Bear very angery. Even if you have the right dose, the drugs are not instantious. It can take as much as twenty minutes for an animal to pass out. A lot of that will be spent in a killing rage.

Tranquilizer guns are a practical solution in zoos where you prepair for each animal, but less than perfect in the field.

I have referred to 'A Tiger Walks' several times in this piece. In one case real life was better than the movie. Other than Terry Thompson, no people were killed or injured.


  1. (Zack says)

    I remember that movie! It was great.

  2. Greetings from Texas,
    Thanks Zack. I have enjoyed this one as well. Sadly, Netflix doesn't have it. Perhaps I can find it on E-bay.