CAL ROBERTS
cal.roberts@age.co.nz

A mature stag remains at large after vandals cut the fence keeping five deer in their enclosure, with hunters concerned for public safety.

Two large sections of the Masterton Deer Park’s fence was found cut open around 6.30am yesterday.

Four of the deer were rounded up safely, but a 22-point stag bolted behind the hospital and around Henley Lake.

Wairarapa’s rural aerial service, Amalgamated Helicopters, swept the river and surroundings to try and locate the stag yesterday.

Deerstalkers Martin Amos and Sean Roberts called off the search at sundown.

They had tracked the stag but lost the trail shortly after crossing the Ruamahanga River.

Life member of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA), Pete Cunningham, said the breakout was very dangerous.

“The worrying thing for us is they get quite aggressive, the stags.

“So now if someone’s let him out, it could be a danger to someone else.”

He was at a loss to explain why the fence was cut.

“It’s absolutely irresponsible, I don’t know who’s done it or what the motivation was.”

Two sections of the fence were cut for deer to escape on Saturday night. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED

The park, next to the all-weather track, was a popular spot with visitors, and people stopped to feed the deer through the fence.

The five-year-old stag was born and raised in the park.

“He’s now roaming free and he’s used to people,” Mr Cunningham said.

“It’s really dangerous what they’ve done, and it’s not fair for the deer because now he’s likely to be shot.”

Depending on where it is found and how far away from the park played a role in whether the stag could be captured alive.

“We may be able to tranquilise him, we don’t know.”

This was not the first time deer had been released from the deer park.

A similar act of vandalism occurred in April last year and the deerstalkers believe it was the same person.

NZDA Wairarapa branch vice president, Tracy Amos, said she was disappointed that a public attraction was being targeted by vandals.

The group were “over the moon” about the support they received from the public about the park.

She described the buck as big and beautiful.

“He’s huge.”

Unfortunately, if the stag was not returned safely to the park, it meant no new fawns for visitors either.

The group was reviewing security measures and said if people had any information about the vandalism the park, or sightings of the stag, they were encouraged to contact Pete Cunningham on 0211909468.