A GIANT red stag died after being shot by ‘poachers’ at a New Forest estate.

The magnificent 16-year-old red deer, known as The Monarch, was mortally wounded after being shot in the head.

The 25-stone animal then ran for the safety of water at the Burley Park, where he drowned.

It is believed that he was shot by hunters wanting his head and 16- point antlers to mount as a trophy and sell on.

The death comes just three years after another huge red stag dubbed the Emperor of Exmoor was shot dead by a poacher.

The Monarch was the biggest of a herd of 40 red deer owned by farmer Dan Tanner.

He was often spotted by visitors on the popular New Forest Deer Safari tours run by Mr Tanner.

Mr Tanner, 65, said: “It is very sad but unfortunately it is not that unusual. Poaching is a real problem.

“The Monarch was about 16 years old and was a fine specimen of an animal. He was shot by a poacher but the bullet wasn't a heavy enough calibre to stop him.

“He ran to the water which he tried to swim through but he drowned there. The poachers never got their hands on him.

“Because The Monarch had such a fine set of antlers he would have been very attractive to poachers. They would have wanted his head as a trophy.

“His death is a great loss and waste of life.”

The Monarch is so well-known in the area that gift shops sell souvenirs printed with his image.

Hampshire police have launched an investigation into the killing.

A spokesman said: “Police are investigating after a landowner reported a stag from his estate had been shot. The stag was found on Sunday, February 16.

“It is believed that the red stag, the biggest on the estate, was shot between Friday, February 14 and Sunday, February 16.”

To contact police with information, call 101.