>The horses knew first. Terry Thompson kept dozens of them on his farm just west of Zanesville, Ohio, a suffering river town and the seat of Muskingum County. Most of the living things in Zanesville had been born in Zanesville, or in the county at least; Thompson was one of the few importers. He had a particular eye for the unwanted. His horses weren't pretty animals except that they were horses: worn-out chestnuts, muddy grays, a semihandsome paint named Joe. There was even a donkey and a fat little pit pony in the mix, and now they were together in the pasture, more tightly packed than usual, running in a wide circle. They were rolling almost, the bunch of them moving slowly at first and now finding their old legs, picking up speed like starlings, like the bands of a hurricane.
>A neighbor, a sixty-four-year-old retired schoolteacher named Sam Kopchak, first saw Thompson's horses sprinting around their hilly pasture, just on the other side of the wire fence that ran between their properties. Kopchak was on his way up the slope from the little white house he shares with his eighty-four-year-old mother, Dolores, to retrieve his own horse, a pinto named Red, from his small field out back. It was fifteen or twenty minutes before five o'clock, two hours before dark, and Kopchak wanted to bring Red into his barn for the night. He was a new horse owner, and Red was his only horse — that late Tuesday afternoon, October 18, 2011, marked only their ninth day of shared company — but he knew enough about horses to know that they don't normally run in circles, not by the dozens, around and around. There was a bad storm blowing in, but bad storms had blown into Zanesville before, and the horses had never torn after one another like that, kicking up the earth
>Kopchak was distracted from the horses when the grass moved nearby. He caught sight of a cat just then, a wildish male tabby named Klinger that had suddenly jumped out of the trees. Klinger hadn't made an appearance in months, and Kopchak called out to him, thinking he'd dish him out some food. Instead Klinger ran away, disappearing back into the brush, and now Red spooked, too, bolting in the opposite direction, toward the far corner of the field, maybe 150 yards from the barn, as close as he could get to Thompson's charging horses without going over the fence.
>There, Red began to pace. Kopchak went into the barn and fetched a green plastic bucket that he filled with water, which he thought he might use to draw Red away from the commotion. In the middle of his long walk up, Kopchak saw a black shape that was different from the others, different from all those panicked horses. At first he saw just its humped back beyond the crest of a hill. But then he saw the rest of it, and now Kopchak knew what the horses knew. He saw what was unmistakably a bear, giving chase.
>He knew that Thompson kept animals other than horses. Everybody in Zanesville did. The farm was a local legend, T's Wild Kingdom, an almost mythical place where, people swore, giraffes sometimes appeared in the fields, where camels had broken loose and darted onto I-70, running along the north side of Thompson's seventy-three-acre spread. Everybody knew that Thompson kept more dangerous animals, too: lions and mountain lions, grizzlies and black bears, leopards and tigers and wolves. Many had been purchased at auctions over the years. Others were "rescues" whose former owners could no longer handle; some may have been illegally bred on the farm itself. They were packed into dozens of outdoor pens, lined up on either side of the long, sweeping driveway close to the house, set back from Kopchak Road. (Sam and Dolores are part of a long-established local family.) From the top of his field, Sam Kopchak could see the pens, and when the light was right, he could see movement up there. At night he could hear lions roaring through the trees. Neighboring farmers sometimes donated whole dead livestock to feed them. Thompson had been seen picking deer carcasses off the roads and dragging them up toward the pens, or he'd fill his white van with discarded chicken parts from nearby slaughterhouses.
>Kopchak kept his eyes on the bear, which continued to run through the fields. After he'd managed to corral Red, he would call Thompson, the way he had many times before, usually to come get his pit pony after it had pushed through the fence. The bear was an unusual sight, but it wasn't, by itself, of any particular concern to Kopchak. He had once seen Thompson driving down the road with a bear cub on his chest. Thompson had stopped, rolled down his window, and asked Kopchak if he'd like to pet the bear; when Kopchak blanched, Thompson was upset. "People don't understand animals," he said, and Kopchak was never certain whether Thompson was talking about him or about the world at large.
>Now he approached Red, reaching out with his bucket of water, calling to him gently. Red nosed in for a drink, and Kopchak got a rope on him. He put down the bucket and began to lead his horse back toward the barn. He'd covered maybe twenty or thirty yards, Red bouncing a little, pulling at his rope, when Kopchak suddenly felt a shiver go over him. "I can't really explain it," he says today, "except to say that I felt like I was being watched." He looked back toward Thompson's band of horses; the bear was pushing them north, toward the highway. Then Kopchak saw the lion...