Police were yesterday hunting a brazen gang who stole six fully-growns Elks from a field.
Thieves cut through a fence and used dogs to round up the giant animals, which weigh up to 500lbs and stand up to 9ft tall including their antlers.
Two heavy-duty batteries were also stolen and a further two elks allowed to escape following the incident last week.
Paul Richards, who owns Woodentop Farm in West Coker, Somerset, breeds a number of organic animals on the site including bison and wild boar.
Mr Richards yesterday said he had managed to re-capture one of the missing animals.
The farmer, who keeps 30 elk at the farm, coaxed the animal back onto his land following the incident last week.
He had been preparing to cull six of the animals ahead of Christmas.
Mr Richards, 56, said all the animals stood over 6ft tall and are worth up to £1,000 each.
He said: “I was very angry to find six were missing, but we got on top of the situation straight away.
“We managed to track one down. She’s my favourite one out of all the elk.
“You can feed her by hand, but even with that we had to set up a way of containing her because they are huge.”
Mr Richards does not know who targeted him or why.
He said: “People like me get targeted by animal rights people and then there’s also a risk from poachers. Or it could have just been someone opening the gate as a prank.
“They went missing on Thursday or Friday and there could have been carnage if the bison had got out.
“The bison weigh more than 2,000lb and I have to have a dangerous wildlife animal licence for them and the boars.
“If anyone knows anything about this please get in touch.”
Elk is the second largest member of the deer family and farmed for its very dark and coarsely grained meat which has a very low fat content.
Officers investigating the crime yesterday appealed for anyone who may have been offered elk meat over the past few days to come forward.
PC Jackie Poole, from Avon and Somerset Police, said: “This is an unusual theft and would have required a vehicle, and probably quite a bit of time, to complete.
“I would ask people in the area at the time to cast their mind back and see if they remember seeing anything suspicious.
“I am particularly interested in speaking to anyone who has been approached about elks or elk meat or anyone who saw a vehicle in the area which was capable of stealing these animals.
“It is possible that dogs were used to help herd the animals. If you can help please give me a call.”