RSPCA inspectors are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a swan was shot in the neck with an air rifle in Merseyside on Sunday (25 October).

A concerned passer-by contacted the RSPCA after they saw the wild bird was injured on Bradlegh Road, in Newton-Le-Willows.

But when RSPCA inspector Leanne Hardy arrived on the scene she found the poor swan with an air pellet wound on his neck and took him to RSPCA Stapeley Grange wildlife centre in Nantwich, Cheshire, for treatment.

Manager of RSPCA Stapeley Grange wildlife centre Lee Stewart said: “Staff at our wildlife centre tried to treat the swan but sadly his injuries were so severe he could not be saved.

“The pellet wound from the air rifle had left him with severe spinal cord injuries from the pellet wound and unfortunately he was put to sleep to prevent any further suffering.

“We would urge anyone with information on this incident to contact us on our Cruelty Hotline 0300 123 4999.

“Unfortunately, air rifle attacks are not rare and are often deliberate. The injuries caused by such attacks are horrific and often fatal.  Cats and wildlife are normally the animals that are more susceptible to these incidents simply because they are out in the open with no one to protect them.

“It is very distressing to think that people take pleasure in causing such horrific injuries to defenseless animals. These are deliberate acts of cruelty and we would appeal to people’s consciences not to commit these offences.

“We are calling for tighter controls with better education and explanation of the law when buying an air gun and that everyone must receive basic safety training before being allowed to walk out of the shop.

“We would also like to remind people that the penalties faced if caught deliberately using an air gun to injure a wild bird can be up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000 if found guilty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.”