Two lions, two tigers, a jaguar and a bear were reported missing from their enclosures at a zoo in Luenebach, prompting a massive search by emergency services and warnings to local residents to stay indoors.
It occurred amid heavy rain and flooding of the Bierbach river, which swept away fencing at the Eifel Zoo in western Germany.
The bear was discovered outside the zoo grounds in the rolling hills of the Eifel region, and was shot.
As for the big cats, they were eventually found in a corner of their own enclosures.
It turns out the animals were never on the loose, but had not been visible earlier because of the heavy storm damage.
Andreas Kruppert, the Mayor of the Arzfeld district of Luenebach, said there had "been an unclear situation with the wild cats over the hours".
"In particular with regard to the tigers and the jaguar.
"We were unable to see the enclosures due to the large masses of water."
The confusion arose because volunteers using a drone were unable to find the carnivores, prompting fears they had all escaped, Mr Kruppert.
When asked about the shooting of the bear, he said the lives of residents were ultimately prioritised over its welfare.
"In the case of the bear, it was also due to the serious flooding that the grid of the enclosure could not stand the pressure of the debris and high water," Mr Kruppert said.
"The bear then tried to save himself from the rising water level and then tried to escape and walked onto the pavement.
"But there were already emergency forces there and due to the considerable danger for the people, the bear had to be shot."