Poachers kill, decapitate and dump 'Santa's reindeer'
A FAMILY has been left heartbroken after their cherished pet deer was shot at close range, hung from a tree, skinned and beheaded
The 11-year-old hand- raised stag named Big Red was a beloved part of the Alt family before meeting a grizzly end at the hands of illegal poachers.
Big Red's owner Tim Alt said he received a disturbing call from his neighbour Friday morning, and soon found the remains of their pet on their property at Dundee, near Glen Innes.
"The shooters would have enticed him right up close, shot him at close range with a .22 and then dragged him out of his paddock under the wire," Mr Alt said.
"They strung him up in a tree, skinned him to his back legs, and what was left of the body, they've dumped."
The beekeeper and father of five said his children were grieving the loss of their pet.
"My little fella is 10 and he'd yell 'Come on Red, give us one', and he'd roar out," Mr Alt said.
"When Dad first got him 10 years ago, we bought him home on a horse float, he was that quiet.
"Just the other day I was filling up his water container, and he came over and I gave him a big scratch on his face and chin and he was loving it."
Mr Alt's brother Jonathan also grew up on the property, then moved to Sydney, returning with his two daughters on holidays.
"We used to tell them when Santa stopped in Glen Innes he'd give his reindeer a rest, and use Big Red instead," he said.
"He was the reindeer that did Santa's rounds for the area.
"We thought he was so wonderful, and (my daughters) have been quite upset; there's been a few tears and cuddles."
As a former police officer and knowing the antlers were worth more than $20,000, Jonathan had little doubt the attack was premeditated.
"At first we thought it was opportunistic, but now it seems more organised," he said.
His brother agreed.
"It obviously hasn't been a spur of the moment thought," Tim said.
"They've been watching him.
"They've waited for him to drop his velvet, because as soon as that happens, the antlers become very hard."
Toowoomba Stock and Rural Investigation Crime Squad Detective Sergeant Brendan Murphy said gutless kills like that of Big Red were not unheard of.
"Poaching deer is fairly common, and deer hunters are a bit of a different shooter," he said.
"They get camouflaged and sit for hours, simply to trophy hunt for a particular stag.
"It's part of the hunt that they'll sit and wait for days, and know the particular stags they're after."
He said the squad recently dealt with cases of deer poachers in Crows Nest, Texas and Sundown National Park.
"We find of a lot of the heads are kept privately," he said.
"These hunters build up a store of trophy collections for themselves.
"We did a raid in Toowoomba recently where we found a whole room filled with antlers."
He said they also dealt with poachers who killed a pet deer at a woman's hobby farm near Chinchilla.
"They spotted it when they were going past and killed it," he said.
Tim Alt asked that anyone with information on Big Red to call Crime Stoppers on 1800333000.
"It's an absolutely gutless, ruthless attack on someone's pet," he said.
"These people call themselves hunters, but they're not.
"Big Red would have walked up to them wanting a pat or a biscuit, and they just shot him."