Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Emperor of Exmoor is dead – long live the King! Stag even mightier than 'shot' giant is spotted in the New Forest


New crown: This stag was spotted in the New Forest by wildlife enthusiast Roy Allner and is thought to be even bigger than Exmoor's Emperor
‘This new stag has a more impressive set of antlers, a more handsome head, and is a finer animal altogether,’ said Mr Fletcher, founder president of the Veterinary Deer Society.

Even if the Emperor of Exmoor were still alive and kicking, he would have lost his crown as Britain’s biggest wild animal.

For this even mightier stag has been spotted in Hampshire.

Wildlife photographer Roy Allner captured several images of the magnificent red deer as it roamed in the heart of the New Forest National Park.

They were handed to expert John Fletcher, who confirmed that it puts the 20-stone Emperor in the shade.

Stags shed their antlers every year after mating during the autumn rut. They grow again the subsequent year and each regrowth gives them more ‘points’ (protrusions) which indicate the animal’s age, size and health.

Mr Allner, who has named the stag the King of the New Forest, said: ‘I counted 15 points on his antlers, eight on one side and seven on the other. I could only see 13 at the most on the Emperor of Exmoor.’

The 72-year-old former shop fitter from Bournemouth has spent 40 years photographing deer and other wildlife in the New Forest.

‘I used to come with my daughters when they were little,’ he said. ‘We picked up their fallen antlers and collected them. I fell in love with the place.

‘I drive there two or three times a week and wear camouflage gear so I can’t be seen by the deer.

‘I always try to leave by three o’clock to beat the rush-hour traffic back into Bournemouth. I was just packing up my things to go home when this magnificent stag came along.

Killed? The Exmoor Emperor was considered to be Britain's largest wild animal before it was apparently shot

‘I walk miles into the forest and have taken hundreds of photographs of red deer. But I have never seen a stag as big as him. He was taller than me and at the peak of his powers. I watched him for five minutes before he went on his way.

‘I will never tell anyone exactly where in the forest I found him. That is my secret.’
There are up to 180 wild red deer in the New Forest, which was created in the 11th Century as a hunting area by William the Conqueror.

The photographer: Roy Allner spotted the huge stag

According to John Fletcher, the King is six or seven years old and has yet to reach his prime. When he compared photos of him with the Emperor he said: ‘Roy is right that the New Forest stag has 15 points. It is a bigger and better stag than the Emperor, which has only has 11 or 12 points although he is about the same age.’

As for the Emperor of Exmoor, the story of his death is still gripping people far beyond the boundaries of the national park.

Last weekend a blurred set of photographs emerged which apparently showed the stag lying in a field – shot by an unknown stalker.

The grainy images depict an unidentified man walking towards the animal and then crouching at its side, possibly to cut its throat.

But there are some who think that it was not the Emperor. Indeed, a few Devon villagers suggest, cynically, that the mysterious pictures emerged with perfect timing just as Johnny Kingdom, a poacher turned wildlife photographer, starred in a TV series about Exmoor shown on the BBC.

So what does Roy Allner think will happen to the King of the Forest? ‘I hope he will be allowed to grow old gracefully,’ he says. ‘It will break my heart if he is shot for his antlers by a trophy hunter.’

source: dailymail

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