Rubbish illegally dumped in the countryside is causing appalling suffering to deer, a wildlife expert has warned.
In a recent case, a fallow buck had to be shot after its antlers became entangled in yards of binder twine left in a wood. Another deer caught its lower jaw in a plastic loop and was unable to eat. It too had to be put down. A third animal trapped a foot in a discarded beer can, causing serious injuries.
John Stowers of the Deer Initiative, a partnership dedicated to the management of wild deer in England and Wales, has been called out to deal with an increasing number of deer that are falling foul of discarded junk. He described the most recent case, in which the fallow buck was caught up in binder twine.
He said: "A large amount of twine had been thrown away in the woods and over time had become firmly embedded in the soil.
"A small mound of twine was still visible above ground and the buck had been inquisitively poking it about with his antlers until he had it firmly attached to both antlers and was attached to about 15 feet of twine.
"The animal now was firmly tethered and was clearly running around in circles completely trampling the ground underfoot. The problem was the more he ran around, the shorter and more twisted the twine became until he only had eight feet of distance to run.
"A member of the public who was walking in the woodland found him and I was contacted. I guess by the area trampled he had been there for several days and it was coincidence that he was found because this was well off the beaten track. If he was not found he would have suffered a miserable death.
"The only thing to do for this poor, wretched creature was to put him out of his misery. The twine was so tightly round around itself and twisted that a knife could not cut the cord at the end."
Mr Stowers, who found the deer on land near Bridford in Devon's Teign Valley, said fly-tipping was an ever-growing problem all over the Westcountry and its impact on deer was growing.
"Bucks are very inquisitive and will investigate anything left lying around. Netting, fencing and sundry other rubbish can cause them enormous damage.
"Plastic bags are another problem. We had one with a supermarket carrier bag stuck on his antlers. It was distressing for him and alarming for the rest of the herd as well."
Mr Stowers said the fallow buck that had become trapped in binder twine was around three years old. "He was in the prime of his life," he said.
He appealed to people to dispose of rubbish sensibly and not to simply dump it in the countryside.