Two red deer were killed after being ”hunted” out of their wildlife enclosure near the spot where 40 swans have been shot dead, it emerged today.
The defenceless animals drowned after their herd was chased onto a muddy riverbank in the middle of the night.
Their keepers at Alstone Wildlife Park, in Highbridge, Somerset, rushed to the scene after receiving an anonymous midnight phone call to report their deer running loose.
They hauled several animals to safety but were unable to prevent two getting swept away in the River Brue.
The incident happened just two miles from the area where 40 swans have been shot dead in recent weeks – sparking fears that a crazed hunter is on the loose.
Helen Duckett, owner of Alstone Wildlife Park, said: ”We think several of our red deer were hunted out of their enclosure at around midnight.
”Some were rescued from the mud but unfortunately a couple were stuck and were washed away by the tide during the early hours of the morning.
”Our fence was broken and we think the person who called us up to tell us the deer was running loose, was the person who did it.”
The park, which has more than 50 red deer roaming its land, has reported the incident on Monday night to Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
The deer enclosure’s 7ft wire fence had been broken down.
Earlier this month up to 40 mute swans were found slain in the nearby villages of Wedmore and Blackford, after being shot with an air rifle.
An appeal from wildlife campaigners – including author Terry Pratchett – and appalled local residents amassed a kitty of more than £26,000 to try and catch the culprit.
Avon and Somerset Police arrested three local men, aged 45, 37, and 34, in connection with the incident. They remain on bail.
A force spokesman yesterday confirmed they were investigating the deer deaths.