THE RSPCA has launched an investigation after a swan was shot in the head at a pond in Northwich.

Animal collection officer (ACO) Lauren Bradshaw went to the pond - off the River Weaver - on Tuesday, February 6, after receiving reports of an injured swan.

She said: “We received a call regarding a swan covered in blood. When I arrived I saw the bird sat on the pathway and could see the blood from a distance so knew it was a serious injury.

“I noticed the mute swan had a large swelling to the side of his face and a hole on the side of the head which looked like a gunshot wound.”

ACO Bradshaw rushed the bird to RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, in Nantwich, to be examined by a vet.

The bird was x-rayed which showed a pellet lodged in the side of her head.

“The pellet had entered the left side of the bird’s head and gone straight through to the other side - it’s a miracle it missed the eye,” ACO Bradshaw added.

“Vets checked the bird further and found he had also been shot twice more - with a fresh wound in his left wing and an older injury to the right wing.

“It appears as though this poor bird has been shot deliberately and used as target practice. It’s disgusting that someone could do this to him and then leave him covered in blood and severely injured.

“Sadly, I don’t think this is an isolated incident and members of public at the pond said this was not the first time a bird had been shot on the river.”

Last June, a swan known as ‘Mabel’ on the waterways, was shot and mauled by a dog on the River Weaver in Northwich, and her seven cygnets also went missing.

She was treated for six weeks at Stapeley Grange before being put back on the river.

Like Mabel, the male swan now in the care of staff at Stapeley Grange will stay there until he is fully recovered and strong enough to be released.

The RSPCA has launched an investigation and is calling for anyone with information about what happened and who may be responsible to get in touch by contacting 0300 123 8018 and leaving a message for ACO Bradshaw.

Swans are protected and it’s illegal to shoot or kill one of these birds. Anyone caught deliberately trying to injure a wild bird, or kill or take it without a licence, can face 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.

To report cruelty please contact the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.