For the past week, this massive, short-tempered stag has been charging into British headlines, goring a man in the middle of a picnic and chasing one woman through the brush.The stag's rampage has cast a shadow of fear over Bushy Park, a quiet suburban expanse of tree-lined avenues and ponds popular with retirees and stroller-pushing parents some 13 miles (21 kilometers) southwest of central London.
"I've been in and out of the park for 20 years, and this is the first time I've heard of people being attacked in such quick succession," said Robert Piper, a sports and wildlife photographer whose dramatic shots of the angry deer have kept it in the headlines.The beast didn't seem so fearsome Wednesday, when it was seen lazing in the mud and long grass across from the park's model boat pond.
"He's had a rough couple of weeks," joked Piper. But as he inched forward to take a few last photos, the stag lifted a pair of sharpened antlers into the sky."Let's not push our luck," he said.
Bushy Park holds 320 deer, which roam freely across a 445-hectare (1,100-acre) area of meadows and forested areas that look much as they did when King Henry VIII used to hunt there.They are generally gentle creatures — until fall's rutting season.
"Every year there's the odd incident," says park veteran Dick Hill, a 64-year-old retiree with binoculars dangling from his neck. "There have been quite a few of them this year."
Hill said a shortage of female deer could be to blame for the aggressive behavior, although a park official said
the unseasonably warm weather — which drew large numbers of visitors at the height of the rutting season — was the deciding factor. The official asked not to be named.Whatever the cause, this year's stag attacks have produced some dramatic photos. One showed a middle-aged man being bowled over by a charging deer in a picnic area. Hill, who was there, said the man emerged covered in blood.
Another incident, this one witnessed by Piper, showed a woman racing for her life, with the stag so close that its antlers lifted up her black leather jacket. She managed to escape after Piper distracted the animal.
"It was a happy ending," he said. "But it could easily have been a goring."
London's feisty press have traced the path of the stag's rampage under articles bearing names such as "Stag Fright."
Hill said the fuss was a bit overdone, and in any case, the Beast of Bushy's days may be numbered. The park's deer are regularly culled.
By RAPHAEL G. SATTER