'Big cat' in Gloucestershire ruled out by DNA tests

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Media captionSome people in the area remain convinced the attacks are the work of a big cat

Scientists have failed to find any evidence that "big cats" killed two roe deer found dead in Gloucestershire.

The National Trust commissioned DNA tests last month, after finding one deer on its land at Woodchester Park, in Stroud, and one a few miles away.

Warwick University experts said they had only found DNA relating to foxes and deer on the bodies of the animals.

Forty-five samples were tested for the saliva of any dog or cat-related species.

The National Trust had initially said the carcasses, which were found within a week of each other, had been eaten in a way "thought to be highly indicative of big cat activity".

'Local curiosity'

Image caption Scientists tested 45 samples for the saliva of any dog or cat-related species

However, tests revealed that fox DNA was present on both carcasses.

David Armstrong, head ranger for the National Trust in Gloucestershire, said: "The story of the investigation of the dead deer has really sparked 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, a big cat researcher in Gloucestershire, said he still believed something could be out there, despite what the tests had revealed.

However, he said the latest research had been a "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," said Mr Minter.

'Out there somewhere'

Woodchester Parish councillor Paul Syrett, said he was disappointed with the results but still convinced big cats exist in the area.

"I think the community around here is convinced something is going on," he said.

"Too many references, too many pictures, too many people seeing this animal - I'll just wait to see the next piece of proof," he said.

Josh Ford-Loveday, 30, from Stroud, also continues to believe: "I'm under no illusion that they are out there somewhere, it is just unfortunate that it wasn't a big cat that killed those deer."

He claims to have witnessed a fawn-coloured big cat with two cubs in January, 2010, whilst walking his dogs near Randwick Woods.

"Where I saw them there are several disused quarries and woodland for miles and miles - you could walk from Westrip through the valley and you wouldn't pass houses, you wouldn't be on public footpaths, you'd almost be lost in the wilderness," he said.

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