Theories abound that big cats had been breeding in the wild since the 1970s when they had been released into the area from private zoos, giving rise to the theory about the ‘beast of Woodchester’. These tests though, carried out by University of Warwick, took 45 samples from the two carcasses.
“We did not detect cat DNA on either deer carcass,” Dr Robin Allaby, Associate Professor at the School of Life Sciences, says. “Other than deer, by far the strongest genetic signal we found was from a fox.”
The deer had puncture marks on the neck prompting speculation that they had been brought down by a large fox, however fox expert John Bryant argues that this is unlikely and that the deer were more likely to have been injured by dogs and then scavenged by foxes.
Head Ranger for the National trust in Gloucestershire David Armstrong though, reasons, “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.”