Hunting hounds chase stag across wildlife sanctuary

Two hounds from a Devon and Somerset stag hunt were caught chasing a stag on to the League Against Cruel Sports’ wildlife sanctuary in Somerset.

On Thursday 17th August, 2017, the Devon and Somerset Staghounds were observed persuing a stag on land neighbouring the League’s Baronsdown sanctuary, in Dulverton, West Somerset.

The frightened and exhausted stag managed to reach the safety of the Baronsdown sanctuary, but two hunting hounds continued to chase the terrified animal on to land that is meant to be safe for wildlife.

Paul Tillsley, head of conservation and education for the League Against Cruel Sports said: “It was truly horrific to see the hunt chasing this marvellous stag, in his prime, in the guise of ‘research’.

“We were relieved to see the stag reach the safety of the League’s Baronsdown sanctuary, but shocked the hunt didn’t stop two of their hounds from continuing the pursuit of the stag and shattering the peace of this wildlife haven.”

Hunting of deer with dogs is banned under the Hunting Act 2004 but there are still three stag hunts in the West of England which regularly chase and kill deer, by abusing some of the ban’s exemptions. Stag hunts use the 'Research and Observation' exemption that was designed for researchers and not hunters.

While monitoring the Devon and Somerset Staghounds’ activities, League staff witnessed the mature stag being hunted down a wooded valley that forms a boundary with the League’s Baronsdown sanctuary and runs parallel to the A396.

The stag crossed the A396 and the River Exe desperately attempting to flee from the hunt, but was relentlessly pursued by two hounds on to sanctuary land. One dog was apprehended by League sanctuary officer Graham Floyd.

Philippa King, acting CEO for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This stag should have been safe when it crossed onto sanctuary land, but two of the hunt’s hounds – not under proper control - relentlessly pursued it.

“Eighty-eight per cent of the public oppose deer hunting. This incident is a stark reminder that the Hunting Act needs strengthening, so exemptions like research and observation can no longer be flouted by the hunts in order to persecute animals for ‘sport’.

“Research has shown stag hunting to be terrifying and exhausting for a stag, with pursuits lasting for up to three hours. The poor animals literally have to run for their lives.”

The apprehended staghound was kept safe by League staff members until huntsman Peter Heard was escorted onto the Baronsdown sanctuary to collect the dog.

The League Against Cruel Sports owns around 550 acres of land in Somerset and Devon, which is maintained as wildlife sanctuaries where animals can live free from persecution. Despite the Hunting Act (2004), hunts continue to chase and kill wild animals, so the League’s sanctuaries have a vital role to fulfil and staff maintain a vigilant presence to keep the wildlife that relies on them safe.


  • Please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email for any image, comment or interview requests
  • The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at
  • League Against Cruel Sports is a registered charity in England and Wales (1095234) and Scotland (SC045533)

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