This incredible picture captures the moment a rare stunning white stag is spotted in the British countryside.
The majestic wild animal – long associated with mystery and good luck – was pictured by amateur wildlife photographer Ian Crisp as it lay in Devon.
Ian, 30, of North Tawton, Devon, is remaining tight-lipped about the exact location of the stunning beast – amid fears the stag may be targetted by hunters.
The famous 300lb ‘Emperor’ – which was one of the country’s largest wild deer – was shot dead by trophy hunters last year after it was spotted on nearby Exmoor, Devon.
Ian said he was stunned when he spotted the all-white deer stalking the countryside after receiving a tip off from a friend.
He said: ”I’d like to photograph him again, but I’m going to be careful. I don’t want too many people to know where he is.
”It took me half an hour to get there – then I just walked across a field and photographed him.
”He was so docile – he didn’t seem that bothered by me – I could have taken along a lump hammer and hit him on the head with it if I’d wanted to, he was so relaxed.
”I suppose he’s a big boy and hasn’t got any real natural enemies except someone with a gun – so why should he be frightened?
”I have seen some white hinds in the area before – and once I saw a white pricket – a single male with straight antlers. But I’d heard rumours there was a white stag about.
”It’s stunning and something I will never forget.”
Veteran hunter and deer expert Maurice Scott, master of the Devon and Somerset staghounds, said: ”White red deer are very unusual. We had one on Exmoor – it must have been more than 20 years ago – but that wasn’t from the local herd.
”We believed he was dumped by some private owner on Molland Common.
”He didn’t stay long – I don’t know what happened to him, but they said he had difficulty seeing in the daylight.
”And there was also a well-known white hind on the Quantocks – but that one was shot.”
White red deer are not albinos – most have been affected by a rare condition called leucism which causes the hair and skin to lose its natural colour.
White stags have featured in British myth and legend for centuries.
The Celts regarded them as messengers from another world, which would appear when someone was breaking some kind of unspoken or moral code.
The white hart was also believed to be a creature with supernatural powers of escape, according to Arthurian legend.
If one was seen by a knight it meant he and his fellows should ready themselves for some heroic quest, like the hunting of the Holy Grail.
But Mr Crisp is hoping West Devon’s White Hart will be left in peace.
He said: ”There might be a few other local people who know where he is – so I am worried someone will have him.
”But you’d only trophy-shoot him for the colour – to be honest his antlers aren’t like a big red stag’s – I’ve seen a lot better. So I hope people will leave him alone.”