Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Police respond to stag shooting criticism

Police in Newry have responded to criticism levied against them from members of the public over the shooting dead of a wild stag that was on the loose in the city last Thursday morning.

The drama unfolded shortly before morning rush hour on Thursday when the animal was spotted in the St Patrick’s Avenue area of the city.  Police issued a warning for people to avoid the area, advising the public not to use the steps between St Patrick’s Avenue and Water Street and urging them not to approach the stag.

Officers had been liaising with the appropriate authorities, including the USPCA, a vet and qualified deer stalkers, as part of attempts to safely approach and treat the stag.  According to the PSNI, despite several attempts to safely and humanely manage the animal, officers were “regrettably” forced to shoot the animal “as it had become very agitated and posed a risk to the public.”

News that the stag had been shot and killed prompted much comment and debate on social media with some members of the public questioning why a tranquiliser had not been used to contain the animal.

In response to accusations that firearms officers had indiscriminately chosen to kill the stag instead of sedate it, the PSNI Newry and Mourne later issued a statement on their Facebook page in an effort to clarify the matter.

“We responded to reports of this animal in a residential area, it was located in St Clare’s Avenue, a built up area, just prior to the time residents were going to be getting up and going about their business. It ran off and remained on a small area of grass just beside the steps above Lindsay’s Walk,” the post read.

Explaining that the stag was clearly agitated in unfamiliar surroundings, the officer said the animal made off toward St Patrick’s Avenue, where a crew had already taken up position to stop pedestrians using the path.

“Encountering its path blocked, it turned back and got into a small area of heavily grassed land between St Clare’s Avenue and St Patrick’s Avenue.”

The police spokesperson went on to admit that he himself had fled from the animal as it made its way back down the path.

“I am not ashamed to say that at one point, when the stag turned to come back down the path, I ran. Standing waving my arms may work for sheep, cattle and horses but this stag was most likely in excess of 16 stone weight, had an almighty set of antlers and due it being mating season and the fact it was in unknown territory, was extremely agitated and stressed so no one could predict its next move. We managed the path so that pedestrians could not use it and potentially encounter the stag.”

With the stag having cornered itself in the confined area which is enclosed on both sides by high walls, police say the danger to the public was very real and any encounter with the animal would most likely have resulted in a member of the public being gorged and killed.

“This path is an area of high foot fall at this time of morning. Used by workers, families and kids.

“A tranquiliser was simply not an option, had the sedative not worked the stag would simply not have lain down but become even more agitated and took any way out. There was no way of corralling the animal and leading it back to its natural habitat,” police stated.

“These are magnificent creatures and no one wanted to see this incident end in this way.”

The PSNI representative said he stood by his decision to task the team of specially trained Firearms Officers and added that “they would not have taken the decision to kill the stag lightly”, with all options considered by those on the ground, including the Duty Inspector monitoring the incident and the officers who ultimately shot the animal.

David Wilson from the USPCA said the stag had been in a densely populated area of the city and explained that its behaviour would have been “unpredictable” as it was out of its natural environment.

As is normal procedure the office of the Police Ombudsman has been informed of the incident.