League 'appalled' at staghound attack
The League Against Cruel Sports says the lives of deer on its sanctuary land in the Quantocks have been put at risk by an "out of control" staghound.
It has accused the Quantock Staghounds of "trespassing and causing havoc" following the incident on Monday.
A stag fled onto the land and a hound was seen to enter the sanctuary, causing frightened hinds to flee.
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The charity will be writing to the Master of the Quantock Staghounds to file a complaint.
Nick Gibbons, chairman of the hunt said last night: "I was not aware of this and if any hunt officials had known they would have got the hound back as soon as possible."
But Paul Tillsley, the Somerset-based head of investigations at the League said: "Although the hunt's behaviour comes as no shock, we are left utterly appalled.
"Our sanctuary exists to provide a safe haven away from hunts, for animals to come and go as they please. Putting the lives of the animals residing there in danger will not be tolerated.
"I dread to imagine what could of happened if we hadn't managed to get the hound to leave the land.
"Despite the devastatingly low numbers of stags left in the Hills, the local hunt seems to be more determined than ever to continue hunting the few left."
The league says there are only nine adult red deer stags on the hills and earlier this year appealed to hunts to impose a moratorium.
Figures released by the Quantock Deer Management and Conservation Group in July suggested the overall population of red deer on the hills has more than halved to 386 over the last eight to ten years.
The hunt denies that adult stag numbers are so low and says that it hunts within the law to manage the deer population.
Mr Gibbons, who took part in the survey has said it was only a "guesstimate" but said he had seen as many as five stags at one time in his wheat fields.
The Hunting Act 2004 prohibits hunting deer with a pack of hounds but exemptions allow the animal to be flushed from cover using two dogs as long as it is then shot, and for the purpose of "scientific research" only.
A stag, which the league has named "Red" has moved onto its land.
Mr Tillsley said: "Red came onto our land for the annual rutting season, where he would usually be competing with other males for the right to mate.
"However this year he has no competitors. This is an alarming realisation of just how small the area's stag population has become.
"It is critical that Red and the other few mature males left are protected from hunters wanting to kill these magnificent animals for nothing more than to have as a trophy."
The league is also concerned that a high fence erected on Exmoor some years ago around sanctuary land owned by Sir Paul McCartney, prevented a stag from fleeing onto the land this season.
The autumn stag-hunting season lasts until the end of this month. In August the Quantock Deer Management and Conservation Group said the latest count of 386 deer represented the lowest number since 1996, and it contained just nine adult males.