Monday, October 25, 2010

'The Emperor' is dead: Fury as giant red stag that was Britain's biggest wild animal is gunned down


Killed: The Emperor was the largest stag on Exmoor and was thought to be the biggest wild animal in the UK

Britain's biggest wild animal - a red stag nicknamed 'The Emperor' - has been shot dead.

The giant stag of southern Exmoor was killed close to a busy main road in the middle of the annual rut.

The shooting - believed to have been carried out by rich sportsmen after a trophy head - has enraged deer experts and wildlife fans who believe wild red stags should be protected during the mating season.

Popular: The Emperor with his female companions during this year's annual rut. It's thought he was killed by sportsmen looking for a 'trophy head'

Thought to be the largest wild animal in the British Isles, Emperor weighed around 300lb and stood at 9ft tall from the ground to the top of his antlers.

He was believed to be about 12 years old.

Exmoor-based deer expert Peter Donnelly said: 'It's a disgrace that this magnificent animal has been shot at this time because it could be that he didn't get to rut properly this year, therefore his genes have not been passed on this time round.

'The poor things should be left alone during the rut, not harried from pillar to post.

'There are people who are prepared to spend quite ridiculous sums of money to have a trophy on their wall,' added Mr Donnelly, from Dulverton, Somerset.
'People talk about £1,000 for a good head.'

Mr Donnelly admitted older stags do need to be culled because they find it hard to survive after a certain age - but said The Emperor was not at that stage yet.

Red deer stags are the biggest indigenous land animal left in Britain and those in Exmoor are larger than the ones in Scotland because of their diet.

Earlier this month, wildlife photographer Richard Austin tracked The Emperor down - but kept his exact location a secret for fear of poachers.

He said at the time: ‘I’m so glad he’s come back again looking even bigger and better than last year.

‘He’s so big none of the others are willing take him on.’

‘The way he struts around thrashing his massive set of antlers into the hedges lets everyone know who’s boss.'

source: dailymail

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