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.