A HOTEL has been at the centre of a media storm after it was claimed the head of the famous Exmoor Emperor stag had been spotted on its wall.

Claire Carter, the owner of the Hartnoll Hotel in Bolham, has been on the receiving end of hate mail and threats since claims were made that a stag's head mounted on a wall in the hotel was that of the Exmoor Emperor, which was believed to be one of Britain's largest land animal and was shot in October 2010.

Since the storm broke this week Ms Carter has removed the head amid fears her business could be targeted by protestors.

The trouble began when national media reported Ms Carter had displayed a head resembling that of the Emperor after claiming she had been leant it by a member of the shooting community, believing it to be the Emperor.

Richard Austin, the photographer who named the Emperor, said he was 95% sure it was the famed stag due to a bump on its right antler which seemed identical to one on the Emperor's.

But wildlife tracker Dave Webb, who runs deer safaris and spent years pursuing the animal, was sceptical and said the formation and angle of the antlers are different.

At nearly 9ft tall, the red stag was thought to have been one of the UK's largest wild land animals. The mystery surrounding his apparent death gripped the nation after pictures emerged last October apparently showing a hunter slitting the animal's throat, but whether or not it was the Emperor has never been proven.

There is no suggestion that anyone has acted unlawfully in the killing and mounting of the animal.