The RSPCA is appealing for information after a duck was shot in a canal in Chester.

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The magpie duck was found injured at the side of the canal, by Telford’s Warehouse, on Sunday, 3 June. She was taken to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, where sadly an x-ray showed an air rifle pellet in her neck.

Her injury was so severe that she was put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

Donna Boden, a member of the public who has fed the duck for the last five years, said: “I called her Maggie and she was the only magpie duck who lived in that part of the canal. Everyone knows Maggie because she looked different to the other ducks. Maggie knew me and she always came to me when I went down to the canal.

“I knew something was wrong when I went to the canal to feed her, but her wings were splayed out and her face was hidden in some undergrowth. She was off her food – I knew I had to get help for her.”

Donna managed to catch Maggie and take her to Stapeley Grange. She said: “I couldn’t leave her there to suffer.”

She added that she believes there are fewer ducks in that part of the canal. “There used to be about 30 ducks in this canal basin but they have started disappearing. I know because they used to wait for me at the same time each day and all run across the car park towards me, so you got to recognise certain little couples and their set spots along the canal bank.

“Now there are just three males and a female left. Everyone I speak to says they’ve never seen it so bare and say that something is going on.”

Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said: “People need to remember the devastating consequences that shooting at animals with air guns can have.

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

“We would also like to remind people that under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to take, injure or kill wild birds or interfere with their nest or eggs, unless under licence. The maximum penalty, if found guilty, is six months in prison and a £5,000 fine.”

Anyone who has any information should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or Cheshire Police on 101.