'Exmoor Emperor' stag's head removed after threats

Hartnoll Hotel's mounted stag's head
Image caption The hotel owner refused to say who loaned her the stag's head

The head of a giant red deer stag, believed to have been the biggest wild land animal in the UK, has been taken down from the wall of a Devon hotel.

An employee of the Hartnoll Hotel in Bolham, near Tiverton, said the hotel had been "bombarded" with threats.

No complaints have been made to the police about the threats which have come via telephone and email.

The Exmoor Emperor was killed near Rackenford in October last year.

Weighing more than 135kg (300lb) and standing nearly 2.75m (9ft) tall, it is believed the Emperor was shot by a licensed hunter during the annual rut.

The hotel was lent the stag's head about a month ago.

BBC South West Correspondent John Kay said the hotel had decided to take the stag's head down until attention and threats subsided.

A hotel employee, who did not want to be named, confirmed that the stag's head had been taken down on Monday.

She declined to say what the threats were.

Police said they had received no complaints from the hotel, but the employee could not say why they had not been contacted.

Photographer Richard Austin, who named the giant stag, said he was "95% sure" it was the Emperor.

He said although the mane of the hotel's mounted stag had been trimmed, it had a particular bump on its right antler which appeared identical to the Emperor's.

After comparing the mounted stag with images he captured of the Emperor, he said: "I've had a good look and it's close - very, very close."

Image caption Photographer Richard Austin is 95% sure the stag's head is the Emperor

The Hartnoll hotel is nine miles from where the stag was killed.

"It's a blooming good coincidence... I'm 95% sure it is the Emperor," Mr Austin said.

Its death led to calls from some deer experts to protect wild stags during the mating season.

At the time, Mr Austin said the Emperor had been a "definite target" because of his magnificent antlers.

Earlier on Monday hotel owner Claire Carter said it would be "fantastic" if it was him, but she only thought the head was similar.

Ms Carter, who has refused to say who loaned her the stag's head, said the Hartnoll was a "country hotel for country people" and no-one had complained about the mounted stag.

She said shooting parties, who regularly use the hotel, had been joking about the similarity to the Emperor.

"They all look the same don't they, so I didn't ask... maybe it's a relative," she said.

Ms Carter, who is interested in taxidermy and has some specimens at home, said the person who offered her the stag's head had not mentioned the Emperor, nor had she asked.

But she said it would be nice to have something that had been "killed locally".

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