Warick University Research into possible Woodchester wild cat finds no cat DNA on deer
Released on: February 17, 2012, 8:23 pm
The National Trust asked the University of Warwick to test a
roe deer carcass found near Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire in early
January after examination of the wounds led to speculation that it may
have been killed by a big cat.
Comprehensive DNA tests have found fox DNA on the Woodchester carcass and what is
expected to be fox DNA on the second deer carcass found a few miles away.
Dr Robin Allaby, Associate Professor at the School of Life Sciences at the
University of Warwick, said: "We did not detect cat DNA on either deer carcass.
Other than deer, by far the strongest genetic signal we found on the Woodchester
Park carcass was from a fox. That fox DNA was found on the ribs, legs and fur
plucking sites from the Woodchester deer carcass.
"On the second deer carcass we found canid DNA. A more detailed analysis is
underway to pin down the canid species but our expectation is that that will also be
Dr Robin Allaby took 45 samples in total, from the wounds of the deer carcasses with
the aim of testing specifically for DNA from the saliva of any canid (for instance
dog or fox) or felid (cat) species which had killed or scavenged from the deer.
He used those samples to carry out 450 PCRs (the polymerase chain reaction is a
standard scientific technique to amplify the target DNA), and almost 600 sequence
reactions. The team searched for two gene targets each of deer and canid, but over
30 different cat gene targets.
David Armstrong, Head Ranger for the National Trust in Gloucestershire said: "The
story of the investigation of the dead deer has really sparked off local curiosity
with a lot of people who visit Woodchester Park to explore. People love a
mystery like this and although we haven't found a wild cat, many of our visitors
clearly believe there might be something interesting living quietly hidden in
Rick Minter, author of a new book on big cats reported in Britain, said: "There has
been speculation of breeding amongst feral big cats in the UK. We are no closer to
indicating that with these results, but lessons have been learnt from Warwick
University's valuable input to this exercise. The strong media interest suggests an
appetite to look into this subject further, and recent community surveys in
Gloucestershire have indicated a strong desire for big cat evidence to be researched
"We should not be complacent about possible big cats in the UK, but considering
these animals living secretly in our landscape can fire people's imaginations and
help us consider all of the wild nature around us. Our outdoors can still hold
Big cats will do their utmost to avoid contact with people but anyone who does see a
big cat in the wild is advised to stay composed and back away from the animal.
Any sightings or possible evidence on National Trust land can also be reported by
email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The National Trust:
The National Trust is one of the most important nature conservation organisations in
Europe with over 1,000 sites covering 250,000 hectares, including coastal sites, countryside places, woodland and
upland areas; many of which are rich in wildlife. All 17 species of UK bat have been
recorded as roosting or breeding on National Trust land and 96 per cent of all
resident UK butterflies can be found on National Trust land. The charity also offers
a number of National Trust holidays, including countryside walks throughout locations across Britain. Those
interested in volunteering with the National Trust can find out more at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
Assistant Press Officer
The National Trust
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