Whatever killed Gloucestershire deer, it wasn't a panther...

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DNA tests have concluded that a mystery beast lurking in the Gloucestershire countryside, suspected of being responsible for grisly attacks on deer, is not the "big cat" that locals feared.

The tests, commissioned by the National Trust last month, were the first attempts to use DNA to verify long-standing rumours that big cats live wild in parts of the UK. Two deer carcasses were found in Woodchester Park, near Stroud last month.

Scientists at the University of Warwick tested 45 samples from the two carcasses and failed to detect any cat DNA. Undeterred, local big cat enthusiasts remain convinced that something is out there. Experts said at the time that the deer bore all the hallmarks of a big cat kill.

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 in Britain, said the results brought them no closer to the truth, but hoped that suspected big cats sightings would be investigated again in the future.

"We should not be complacent about possible big cats in the UK," he said. "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."

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