Baby swan on Leeds-Liverpool Canal shot with pellet gun by cruel yobs

Animal welfare workers are appealing for information after a cygnet was shot on a stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal.
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A member of the public spotted the young bird motionless near Brunthwaite Swing Bridge on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, close to Silsden, on Monday morning, and contacted the animal charity and the Yorkshire Swan Rescue Hospital for help.

It is understood that a farmer in the area has previously had animals targeted in a similar way over the past year.

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The cygnet was initially out of reach of her rescuers, but RSPCA inspector Adam Dickinson managed to hook the bird using a reach and rescue pole and bring her to safety on the towpath.

The cygnet is believed to have been targeted by a pellet gun.The cygnet is believed to have been targeted by a pellet gun.
The cygnet is believed to have been targeted by a pellet gun.

The juvenile bird was bleeding from a circular wound to the side of her head and although an x-ray did not show any evidence of a pellet having penetrated, it is likely that she was shot by an air rifle.

Mr Dickinson said: “It may have been a plastic pellet and while it was not showing up on the scan, you can see an 8mm hole on the side of the head close to her eye.

“When I arrived the cygnet was on the opposite of the bank close to an overflow duct and she was proving very difficult to reach. She was obviously unwell and was struggling to raise her head.

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“Fortunately I managed to grab the bird. She was in a horrendous condition and she was still bleeding when I got her out of the water. It was really sad to see.”

Volunteers from the rescue took the injured cygnet for veterinary treatment at a specialist hospital at the Skylark Nature Reserve near Selby.

She is now on a course of antibiotics and her condition is improving.

Adam added: “We would like to hear from anyone who has seen or heard anything as there is no CCTV in the area and it is quite isolated.

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"A farmer who came down to speak to the volunteers from the rescue said he has had three lambs shot this year in the area, so there does appear to be a problem with people targeting animals.”

All wild birds, including swans, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take them except under licence. The maximum penalty, if found guilty, is six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

In West Yorkshire there were 486 reports of intentional harm against animals made to the RSPCA last year. This places the region in the top five most cruel counties.

For more information on what to do if you find an injured wild animal, visit the RSPCA website.

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Anyone with any information is asked to ring the RSPCA appeals line number on 300 123 8018.

The incident has also been reported to West Yorkshire Police’s rural crime team, who can be contacted on 101, quoting incident number 13220519563.