Residents who regularly visit the Reading Old Cemetery were horrified to find a butchered deer carcass left in the grass after reports that hunters had been using dogs to trap them.

After days of searching the east Reading park, it is believed that only one female remains with three males also being spotted — down from a total of 12 in last spring’s count.

In an effort to deter any would-be attackers, some locals have agreed to take it in shifts to patrol the cemetery and maintain a public presence.

Barry Coll, of Cholmeley Road, said: “If there are enough people then I suppose once every half hour someone can just take a walk around. If someone is there regularly enough then it could be a deterrent.

“Dogs alone cannot catch those things, they need the help of people. If a dog grabs a deer, it does not kill it straight away but if there are people there as well then they have no hope. Within those walls they are trapped and it is like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Since the attacks, residents have noticed a change in the animals’ behaviour and with only one female left there are fears that it could take years for the population to recover.

Mr Coll said: “Last year in the summer I would go there with a book and read for a few hours and they would come over and graze within 20 feet of you, they never used to be afraid. When you walk over there now the four deer that are left are terrified.”

In the two most recent attacks, one stag had its legs cut off and antlers dug out and another doe had all its flesh stripped from the bones, with knife marks being seen on both.

A joint statement from Reading Borough Council and Thames Valley Police confirmed reports of dogs in the cemetery but with no evidence of organised attacks.

A council spokesman said that site security and “no dog” signage would be looked at in the near future.