The RSPCA is urging people to be cautious of wildlife when on a boat – after a cygnet died after getting caught in a propeller on a Nantwich canal.

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The injured and distressed cygnet was found by a member of the public with his skin ripped away on the top of his body, on the canal near to Barbridge Marina, on Wednesday (2 August).

The member of the public, Richard Palmer, picked the swan up and took him to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, in London Road, Nantwich.

He was assessed by a vet, however his injury was so serious that he was put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said: “It is likely that whoever hit the swan may have known that they had run over something and would have seen it – yet they still didn’t stop to look and help.

“This death could have been easily prevented if people paid attention to speed limits on the canal and slowed down. Swans are agile birds and they would easily move out of the way of a boat in time.

“I would like to thank the kind member of the public who stopped and helped the cygnet. Sadly this was not a happy ending, but at least the cygnet was not left to die in pain at the side of the canal.”

Mr Palmer, who owns a boat at nearby Middlewich and has kept boats for 28 years, said: “The cygnet’s mum and dad swam away with his six siblings, and I couldn’t leave him where he was. He was in no fit state.

“I have seen a number of times over the years swans which have suffered as a result of getting caught in boat propellers. People who hire boats do not necessarily realise how much force a boat can have while on a canal, particularly narrowboats which have more suction than a cruiser.

“To get in this state the person who hit the cygnet likely didn’t slow down or stop the engine. I think this happens more than people realise.”

Anyone who witnesses an animal they think needs help, can contact the RSPCA’s 24-hour helpline on 0300 1234 999. For more advice on what to do if you find an injured wild animal, visit our website at: www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/injuredanimals

The penalties faced if caught deliberately injuring a wild bird can be up to six months in prison and a £5,000 fine if found guilty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.