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Research into possible Woodchester wild cat finds no cat DNA on deer

University of Warwick and National Trust Press Release: Research into possible Woodchester wild cat finds no cat DNA on deer

Dr Robin Allaby, Associate Professor at the School of Life Sciences at the University of WarwickExtensive DNA tests by experts at the University of Warwick on two deer carcasses found in Gloucestershire have not found any indication of a big cat presence.

The National Trust asked the University 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 fox DNA."

- UPDATE 3rd Feb 2012 fox DNA confirmed on the second deer carcass -

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 coming out to 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 Woodchester.”

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 carefully.

"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 surprises maybe."

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.


For further press information and images please contact:

National Trust press office
Steve Field, Assistant Press Officer, on 01793 817740, 07767 006167 or;

University of Warwick: For the DNA analysis, and to contact Dr Robin Allaby:
Anna Blackaby, Science Faculty Press Officer, University of Warwick, 02476 575910, 07785 433155 or
Dunn, Head of Communications, University of Warwick, 07767 655860 or

National Trust SW regional press office:
Allan King, Communications Consultant, 01985 843592, 07771 837988 or

Photographs are available on the National trust FTP site:
Username: PressOffice Password: NTpressuse In the 'Woodchester Park' folder

High resolution pictures of Dr Robin Allaby can be found at:
(This picture also shows Dr Allaby examining the deer carcass discovered at National Trust’s Woodchester Park. It has been kindly provided free for media use by Rick Minter but the pictures remains his copyright and they should be credited to him).

 Notes to editors:

  • Rick Minter’s book, Big Cats: facing Britain’s wild predators, is published by Whittles Publishing Ltd.,, ISBN no. 978-184995-042-8)
  • The main candidates for the larger types of feral big cats being reported in Britain are puma-type cats and panthers. A puma is a sandy-grey coloured cat also known as cougar and mountain lion. A black panther is biologically a leopard in its black form, or a jaguar in its black form. Those who have given consideration to the black panthers reported in Britain believe they are more likely to be leopards.
  • 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, woodland and upland areas; many of which are rich in wildlife. All 18 species of UK bat have been recorded as roosting or breeding on National Trust land and all resident UK butterflies can be found on our land. Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire is our most species rich site and most of our land has been surveyed for its nature conservation importance. Find out more at: 
  • The University of Warwick is ranked as one of the UK’s top 10 research Universities. Further information on Dr Robin Allaby, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences can be found at:
    NB Dr Allaby remains willing to consider testing further such samples subject to a clear understanding of the practicality of any such testing and that he will be obliged to charge a fee for such a service.


PR8 PJD 2nd February 2012