A big cat could be on the loose in Gloucestershire, experts fear.
Dog walkers stumbled across the mutilated carcass of a roe deer on National Trust land near Stroud last week.
The injuries to the neck of the deer and the way the carcass had been consumed are thought to be highly indicative of big cat activity. Experts have taken DNA samples from the remains of the deer to see whether a big cat, such as a puma or panther, could have killed it.
Big cat expert Rick Minter, who has visited the site of the find at the trust's Woodchester Park, said: "It is very helpful to have this forensic study of the deer carcass.
"Local people who watched the carcass being examined appreciated that this was being studied in a responsible manner and that they are to be kept closely informed about the matter through their local newsletter and a forthcoming meeting."
Mr Minter added: "Although people occasionally report a possible big cat from a distance, close up encounters with such cats are rare. Their hearing and movement are exceptional, which helps them avoid close contact with people.
"In the event of a close-up encounter, you should stay calm and face towards the animal as you back off, but not threaten or aggravate it. The chances are it will have backed off very quickly first."
David Armstrong, the National Trust's head ranger for Gloucestershire, said: "There are some very occasional sightings of big cats in the Cotswolds but they have wide territories, so are rarely present in one particular spot for long. We'd be interested to hear of any more sightings at Woodchester."
Dr Robin Allaby, associate professor at the school of life sciences at the University of Warwick, visited to take DNA samples. These are now being tested with the results due by the end of the month.
For centuries there have been thousands of reported sightings of large felines on moorland and in woods and fields across the UK. The animals - normally black or brown - have been seen in almost every county in Britain, from Cornwall to the tip of Scotland.