"The Emporer," Britain's Famous Giant Red Stag, Killed by Hunter?

A red stag that was reputedly the largest wild beast in Britain has now become the largest pile of steaks in Britain.

From this AP story:
Who shot the Emperor? Nature lovers are mourning the death of a red stag dubbed the Emperor of Exmoor--a nine-foot (2.75 meter) giant reported to be the biggest wild animal in the British Isle. He was found dead soon after his picture appeared in the national press. His size set him apart from the herd, but also made him prize prey for hunters willing to pay handsomely for such a majestic trophy. "With a set of antlers such as this deer had, it was basically going to kill him in the end," said Richard Austin, the photographer whose images of the stag appeared in newspapers earlier this month ˜ inevitably accompanied by the word "majestic."

_"He was his own worst enemy, I suppose, Austin told the BBC Tuesday. "Growing that big and that huge and that magnificent, he was a definite target." For the 12 years of his life, the Emperor roamed Exmoor in southwest England, a wild swathe of heath and woodland that has drawn hunters for 1,000 years. Mystery surrounds his demise, reported by the local press and national media including the BBC. He is reported to have been shot two weeks ago near a main road linking the towns of Barnstaple and Tiverton. Local people were speculating furiously Tuesday about the identity and nationality of the hunter: was it an American, a European, or a wealthy Briton who saw the picture and decided he wanted those magnificent antlers on his wall?

"Whoever has got the trophy is going to keep pretty quiet about it, because it has stirred the most awful furor," said Peter Donnelly, a deer management expert in the Exmoor area. A former royal hunting ground, Exmoor is popular with local hunters and with wealthy outsiders, who jet in to stalk red deer--Britain's biggest wild animal. They pay landowners for the right to hunt on their land and take away sets of antlers as trophies--or for a higher fee the whole head. If done during the hunting season, which runs from August through April, it is perfectly legal. The landowner keeps the carcass, which often ends up being sold for meat. Hunting is a divisive issue in Britain, where the traditional practice of chasing down animals with packs of hounds was outlawed in 2004 ˜ though with enough loopholes that hunting carries on pretty much unimpeded across the country._