HE WAS one of the biggest and well-known stags in the country.

But Hampshire’s magnificent red deer The Monarch has been gunned down in the New Forest, by poachers desperate to get their hands on his prized antlers.

Discovered floating in a lake, the 16-year-old beast who grazed at Burley Park, had been shot in the head but he was able to flee before his killers could take his impressive 16-point antlers, worth more than £1,000.

His death has come as a major shock to the New Forest community, where he was so wellknown that his image adorned souvenirs such as mugs, clocks and jewellery in gift shops.

Named Monarch because of his regal stature, he is believed to have stood at around 8ft tall, with his antlers that weighed an incredible 25 stone and was often spotted by visitors on the popular New Forest Deer Safari tours.

As reported yesterday his lifeless body was found in the lake, where it is thought he drowned after the bullet to his skull ricocheted off and he ran to water for safety, which is a natural instinct for deer.

Daily Echo:

He was the biggest and head of a herd of 40 red deer owned by farmer Dan Tanner.

Mr Tanner, 65, said: “It is very sad but unfortunately it is not that unusual. Poaching is a real problem.

“The Monarch was about 16 years old and was a fine specimen of an animal. He was shot by a poacher but the bullet wasn’t a heavy enough calibre to stop him.

“He ran to a lake which he tried to swim through but he drowned there. The poachers never got their hands on him.

“Because The Monarch had such a fine set of antlers he would have been very attractive to poachers. They would have wanted his head as a trophy.

“His death is a great loss and waste of life.”

Daily Echo:

The Monarch’s body has been given to a local farmer who intends to mount the antlers on a plaque.

While Hampshire police have launched an investigation into the killing, which is believed to have happened between February 14 and February 16.

Jamie Cordrey, from antipoaching group The Deer Initiative, said poachers still pose a threat to Britain’s deer population.

He added: “Deer poaching is an age-old problem in Britain and it is still around today.

“It is very unpredictable and very hard to police. You never know when poachers are going to strike next.”