Criminals who poach deer and other animals could be tracked through tiny samples of their DNA, researchers from the University of Strathclyde have revealed.

The university?s study, which is thought to be the first of its kind, extracted DNA from the legs of 10 culled deer.

The limbs of deer are normally removed through manual force, so scientists believe they represent a potential source of so-called ?human touch? DNA.

Two of the samples were good enough to identify to an accuracy of one in a billion people, and a further two yielded one in a million identification.

The team is now refining the method in order to obtain better samples, thus providing a better chance of identification and conviction.

The scientists, led by Shanan Tobe and Lindsey A. Welch, have been encouraged by the results, and believe that there is potential for the test to be used in relation to other species of poached remains or other types of wildlife crimes.

The idea originated with James Govan, from the Strathclyde Police Services Authority?s Forensic Services department.

He believes it is only a matter of time before the technique is used in criminal prosecutions.

Govan originally came up with the idea as a way of combating the poisoning of birds of prey, which he described as a ?horrendous problem?.

He said: ?Nobody quite knows who?s doing it or why. Sometimes farmers are blamed, sometimes gamekeepers are blamed ? but I associate with quite a few gamekeepers and most of them detest it, so it?s a mystery.?