Thursday, 12 January 2012

Gloucestershire deer carcase swabbed for big cat DNA

When this story broke there was much excitement here in Sussex among my colleages in the big cat world,not because that there was a deer carcase found in Gloucestershire that was thought to of been likely killed by a big cat as it,s too far away for any of us to relate it to our own research on our counties cats nor the fact that there were actually 2 found within walking distance,less than a handful of miles from each other which is not unheard of either.It was that the National Trust in their infinite wisdom had called in a scientist to DNA swab the carcase in order to find big cat DNA.For a large organisation to take an interest is one thing and to actually ,presumably ,finance the operation is another.A fair few deer carcases have been found in recent years in Sussex with a reasonable number of them thought to of been killed by a big cat,i have published a selection of some of them on and yet none have even undergone vetinarian analysis let alone DNA swabbing/testing.The reasons are really down to cost as we are self financed but also an over reliance by myself of on the spot self analysis with photographic evidence taking as well as additional witness verification.Personally i am not out to prove the existance of big cats to anybody,everyone is entitled to their opinions.I do not seek to gain evidence therefore of big cats being in the wild but evidence of their behaviour which is what i am interested in.Of course i would like to know exactly whether we have a pure bred leopard killing a deer,a sub-species, a hybrid or whatever but have gone down the hair sample analysis route.Swabbing of a carcase,as i understand it,involves the gathering of saliva left by the animal consuming the body and this wet substance being what it is prone to rapid decomposition hence the quick deteriation of the DNA.When a plausibly big cat deer kill is found the whole area is analysed to guage how the deer was initually caught then consumed.Other death factors must be eliminated before a big cat kill can be supposed like traffic then scavenged,wounded(by gun or other hazard)then scavenged,dog attack even,believe it or not,hoaxed.After looking at quite a few deer carcases over the years first impressions are usually spot on as the kill scenes have related factors common to all.

Getting back to the West country deer kills i don,t want to shout down and spoil the party but the pictures i,ve seen through the media don,t point straight away as being big cat killed.The puncture wound for a start is something i just don,t come across,every big cat attributed deer kill has been aphyxiated not punctured by canine teeth(dogs can puncture necks though some do throttle too)there is a clear drag line from where presumably the deer was caught then consumed marked by bits of fur,foxes pull at a carcase to tear off flesh dragging it in the process.British big cats will lift up a deer by the neck once dead and effectively carry it a short way to consume it,usually to cover.A classic,uncontaminated big cat deer kill has the appearance of landing where it is having been neatly butchered.Lastly the whole carcase looks too messy,the bones edges are too jagged as is the fur line though the intestines are gone and a similar amount of flesh has gone the way a big cat would feed usually feed.Of course it could be a cat kill and foxes have moved in shortly afterwards i don,t know,it could be a feral dog kill,it could even be a young puma kill,all i have to go one are a couple of pictures and not even the 50 or so that i would of liked to look at.I haven,t examined the deer,others have like the esteemed big cat book author Rick minter and they thought it worthwhile to call in the scientific artillery and have it swabbed.It,s easy for me to sit here 150 miles away and say this and that when the only real way is to be there myself,put on the gloves and get messy,filming the whole process,taking pictures.

UPDATE;I have now seen pictures (kindly sent by Rick Minter)of when the carcase was far fresher and they do give the impression of being a big cat kill for the reasons as explained above ie.clean cut,no messy drag line etc.It is also quite clear that the deer carcase in question is that of a 1st year roe(kid) and most roe deer kills attributed to big cats are of kids.Unfortunately the ones available in the mainstream media were of a carcase several days old and scavengers had indeed got at it.....

The lab results should be publically available for view within a fortnight,half the country waits with baited breath.........

Big Cat May Be On The Loose In Gloucestershire After Mutilated Deer Discovery | UK News | Sky News

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