A WOMAN fighting for her life after a freak attack by a stag has undergone major surgery to repair her windpipe.
Dr Kate Stone, 44, from Cambridge, has been placed in an induced coma and remained in a “serious but stable” condition in hospital last night.
She was left with life-threatening injuries after the “one-in-a-million” encounter with the animal at Lochailort, near Fort William.
She was gored in the throat, chest and spine by the stag’s antlers in the early hours of Monday.
Dr Stone was treated by paramedics at the scene before being taken to Fort William’s Belford Hospital, and later transferred by air to the Southern General in Glasgow.
A statement released by a colleague at Dr Stone’s print firm, Novalia, said she had an operation late on Tuesday to try to repair damage to her trachea.
It read: “The operation went well and she remained stable throughout. The doctors made a decision to keep her in an induced coma for the next week to minimise any movement that may rupture the wound.
“She remains in a stable condition and she is now in the healing process from the first operation.
“Her family are with her over this New Year period and all her friends are continuing to offer support.”
It added: “Her sister and friends are with her and have received messages of support from her many friends around the world.
“Our love and support goes to Kate and we wish her all the best for the speediest possible recovery.”
A spokeswoman at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow confirmed that Dr Stone remained in a “serious but stable condition”.
Dr Stone and friends had attended a ceilidh at the Lochailort Inn before heading to the house of local musician Jim Hunter.
Mr Hunter, who witnessed the accident, said the stag had become trapped in his garden and, as Dr Stone and her friends went through the gate, the stag charged at her.
One eyewitness said that the stag had appeared to single out Dr Stone, who at 6ft was the tallest of the group.
Dr Stone has a PhD in physics and microelectronics from Cambridge University and owns Novalia, a company that looks “at making anything that’s printed interactive”.
She is also a research engineer at the university’s Institute of Manufacturing.
Dr Stone had been on a short break in the Highlands, staying at the Mo-Dhachaidh B&B in Lochailort, which is owned by Gary Burton.
Dr Stone had intended to travel to Dundee on New Year’s Eve to visit her sister before the accident happened.
Mr Burton said he heard about the attack when one of Dr Stone’s friends returned at about 2:30am. He described it as a “one-in-a-million event”.
Retired gamekeeper Peter Fraser, formerly of Invercauld Estate, added: “It is very, very strange behaviour for a stag in the wild.”
However, experts have warned that stags can become territorial during the rutting season which begins in late autumn.
Last November, Kenneth Price, 75, a farmer from Carmarthen, West Wales, died after suffering multiple injuries when a stag attacked him.
Mr Price was airlifted to hospital in Swansea where he later died.
In 2011, a number of walkers were attacked by red deer in the royal parks of Richmond and Bushy in west London. Two people were treated in hospital for their injuries.
Red deer profile
The male red deer, or stag, can be over two and a half metres long and weigh up to 240kg.
In Scotland, stags average 201cm (79in) in head-and-body length and 122cm (48in) high at the shoulder.
European red deer tend to be reddish-brown in their summer coats. The males of many subspecies also grow a short neck mane during the autumn.
Only the stags have antlers, which start growing in the spring and are shed each year, usually at the end of winter.
Antlers typically measure 71cm (28in) in total length and weigh 1kg (2.2lb), although large ones can grow to 115cm (45in) and weigh 5kg (11lb).
Antlers are made of bone which can grow at a rate of 2.5cm (1in) a day.
Retired gamekeeper Peter Fraser, of Catanellan, Crathie, on Deeside, described the attack as “a chance in a million”.
He said: “For a stag to come out of the darkness like this and go for someone is highly unusual.
“You can get old stags that are past it and hang about houses, and they can appear threatening at times.
“If you know the signs it will give you a warning by putting its head to the side, or perhaps grinding its teeth. If you get one like that, you put it down.”
Mrs Fraser, formerly of Invercauld Estate, added: “It is very, very strange behaviour for a stag in the wild.”
A local in Lochailort, who did not wish to be named, said: “I am very wary of the stags round here. They do not always run away..
“They stand there facing up to you, pawing the ground in a threatening manner. The rutting season is over, so now they have harems of hinds to jealously guard against other stags.
“Perhaps this woman was targeted because she was the tallest of the group of humans and perceived by the stag as their leader and the most threatening to it.”