The Sheriff of Nottingham will be pleased. It only took 800 years, but poachers can now be tracked down through tests for human DNA on deer remains, according to research led by scientists at the University of Strathclyde.

Aside from being silly, since most 'poachers' are actually just poor people feeding a family, just like they were in Robin Hood's day, identifying deer poachers can be problematic because these 'crimes' are not discovered until long after the event - and no one cares.  These 'poachers' also field dress the deer carcass (hunters wear gloves) so little human DNA is left behind.

Researchers at Strathclyde and Jim Govan, a Forensic Scientist with the Scottish Police Services Authority, have devised a method which could pick up low levels of DNA and identify poachers. The chances of the DNA profiles it picked up being randomly found within the population would be less than one in a billion, they say.  It is likely the first time that human DNA profiles have been obtained successfully from an animal carcass because...did we mention no one cares?
Scottish Minister for Environment and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson thinks this is revolutionary. "I welcome this development which demonstrates Scotland is at the forefront of the application of this cutting-edge science. The ability to test for the remains of human DNA on animal carcasses, gives law enforcers more tools to protect our wildlife from criminal activity. I look forward to hearing more about how this development can be used practically in tackling the illegal activity of deer poaching."

The researchers obtained samples from the legs of 10 deer which had been legally culled and examined them for matches for DNA provided by volunteers who had taken part in the cull. The tests yielded results that could be matched back to the volunteer hunter. The method has potential to be used on other evidence in wildlife crime, such as feathers, eggs, snares or traps.

More than half of the funding for the research came from PAW (Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime) Scotland which was managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. With the remaining funds coming from the Deer Commission for Scotland (now part of SNH), the British Association for Shooting&Conservation and the British Deer Society.

All deer samples used in the study were obtained from deer legally killed during hunting season, not deer illegally killed a day before or a day after and therefore 'poached'.  No deer were shot for the purpose of the research, they were already dead.