A stag that was on course to match the majestic Exmoor Emperor has been shot dead by poachers about 30 miles from where the Emperor is believed to have been killed.
The 19-point red deer stag, dubbed the Goodleigh Giant, was reportedly gunned down about 10 days ago by poachers in the Shirwell area of north Devon, despite efforts by locals to keep his presence a secret and deter attempts to shoot him.
The stag, which was not yet fully grown, was found dead a week into the rutting season in a copse of trees at an undisclosed location.
Veterinary surgeon Peter Green – who lives in Shirwell, and is also the veterinary advisor to the British Deer Society, the Royal Parks of London, the deer parks of the National Trust and many other deer parks – has condemned the killing as “reprehensible”.
Mr Green said the stag had been shot three times in the back and belly.
“He had undoubtedly suffered considerably from these wounds before dying slowly.
“He had travelled some distance from where he had been holding his hinds and had obviously managed to flee from the poachers, who had clearly taken indiscriminate pot-shots at him as he ran away.
“This was the very worst of cruel, senseless deer poaching.
“The stag was not an elderly animal and was not past his prime,” added Mr Green.
“He would have continued to improve in size and spectacle and would probably have had even better antlers next year.”
He added that many poachers had been seen in the area and gunshots heard after dark, when it is illegal to shoot deer.
The area where he was found was about 30 miles from where the Exmoor Emperor was shot dead almost exactly a year ago.
The 9ft Emperor was gunned down by suspected bounty hunters after a £1,250 price tag was placed on its head.
The 12-year-old, 300lb creature is thought to have been killed by a licensed stalker in Rackenford, north Devon.
His death prompted an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, signed by 10 backbenchers, to stop hunters preying on the UK’s wild animals altogether.