Jeff Burkett, district attorney in Brookville, Pa., northeast of Pittsburgh, used DNA analysis in a case of two deer ranchers feuding over whether one had stolen a prized buck from the other, reports USA Today. The analysis showed that the buck’s genetic profile was a likely match for DNA taken from antlers that the missing deer had shed before he was stolen. Burkett won a larceny conviction against the rancher who had wound up with the buck. Prosecutors and game wardens increasingly are turning to DNA to catch poachers of deer, elk, bear, and exotic sea turtles. Research into the genetic makeup of wild and exotic animals is creating a new front for DNA’s crime-solving potential.
Authorities from Pennsylvania to California have extracted DNA profiles from antlers, animals’ remains, blood spots on hunters’ pants, and homemade hot dogs to track poachers and sellers of illegal animal products. Animal DNA is being used to solve crimes among humans: In Pennsylvania this month, a hunter in the 1997 murder of another hunter after DNA found in deer steaks in the defendant’s freezer matched deer DNA found at the crime scene.