Rhodes said Monday afternoon that he already has contacted the FBI regarding Sunday's incident and that he has “worked with them several times before involving the G.W. animal park.”
The sheriff would not say who exactly authorities were looking for in connection with the Sunday incident or what state appeared to be on the suspect's license plate.
“We're reviewing closed-circuit footage, from the park, as well as some photos taken by the park of the scene,” Rhodes said. “We have an image of the license plate and we're working on that, too.”
Reinke, the park manager, said the chinchilla found dead near the park's entrance was examined by a veterinarian. He said the “preliminary” findings are that the small rodent “was asphyxiated.”
Rhodes said the surviving chinchilla already has been adopted by a local school district.
The G.W. Interactive Zoological Park has long been a target of “animal rights activists,” Rhodes said, although he wasn't sure of the affiliation or motivation of the individuals involved in Sunday's incident in Wynnewood.
“This is not the first time this park has been targeted by what we consider to be animal rights extremists ... this is kind of an ongoing deal,” Rhodes said.
The park in Wynnewood, which houses dozens of big cats and other exotic animals, was founded in 1997 by Francis and Shirley Schreibvogel. The couple's son and the park's namesake, Garold Wayne Schreibvogel, had died the year before in an auto accident.
But over the last several years, the face of the animal park has been Joe Schreibvogel, the couple's other son.
During that time, he's had a less-than-amicable relationship with animal rights groups and others who keep big cats and other exotic animals behind cages.
Earlier this year, Joe Schreibvogel lost a trademark-infringement lawsuit in federal court, a legal defeat that eventually led to him filing for bankruptcy.
“Joe Schreibvogel ... is very passionate about what he does,” Rhodes said. “But on the flip side, these animal rights groups are very passionate about what they do.
“They don't feel like tigers and big cats ... should be displayed in such a manner.”