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Loose deer spark armed callout

The red deer at Queen Elizabeth Park. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

JAKE BELESKI

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Queen Elizabeth Park’s five red deer are lucky to be alive after being released from their enclosure by a person with “misguided concerns”, a Masterton police spokesperson says.

Armed police were called to the park in Masterton yesterday morning after Ray Wallis arrived at about 7.30am to feed the deer, and instead found the fence cut and the deer nowhere to be seen.

Mr Wallis said he was told by a young girl the deer had made their way down the riverbank.

“I went down with her to have a look, but they’d gone across the river and were on the park side of the river . . . they went down as far as the Colombo Rd bridge.

“They made their way back up towards the swing bridge and by that time, I’d come home and rung the deerstalkers to let them know.”

The deerstalkers were assisted by police to funnel the deer back to their pen, and the stag eventually led the rest back across the river.

Mr Wallis said the stag could be “quite stroppy”, and they were concerned someone might unwittingly upset him.

“The police were there and they were armed in case we had to shoot him.

“As it turned out he was a bit frightened but he did go back in.”

It was lucky the red deer tended to stay in a mob, whereas the fallow deer were more likely to split up and go in all directions if released, he said.

This is the third incident Mr Wallis can remember of somebody trying to release the deer from their pen, and he was hoping further security measures would be put in place.

“We are hoping to get cameras in down there . . . a while ago somebody hopped over the fence and killed one and took it, but the police caught up with them and they got two years in jail.

“Hopefully that’s a deterrent.”

Peter Cunningham, of the Wairarapa branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, said the incident had created an unnecessary danger for the public.

“There’s been some wrong publicity about the deer not having enough food.

“The grass may look short, but they get plenty of hay and other food.”

He said it was a relief for the branch that the situation was resolved without further incident.

“The stag still has antlers on, so it was a stupid thing to do.

“It’s lucky he didn’t go further into the public areas.”

A police spokesperson said it was “very lucky” the deer didn’t need to be put down, because they could have been a severe hazard if they had made it out onto the roads.

“They’re not the easiest things to try and redirect.

“At one point, they did take off towards Colombo Rd, and police were armed in case we had to make that decision.”

Police have encountered similar incidents before.

“We suspect it is someone who may have had misguided concerns about the welfare for the deer.

“They must understand if the deer are released, they become a danger, and police may be faced with a decision to put them down.”

Mr Wallis said the fence had been repaired and the deer were now safe and happy.

“After they were back in and settled down a bit, I went and fed them and they were coming right up to me again.

“When they get out they get a little bit stressed because they’re out of their secure environment, but once they were back in and quietened down they were quite happy.”

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