A nesting swan has been shot and killed in a “disgusting and wicked act of deliberate animal cruelty”.
Wildlife charity The Yorkshire Swan Rescue has condemned the killing of a female bird, which was found close to its nest on Saturday.
The bird, which is part of a regular breeding pair, was found by distressed members of the public between the Lemonroyd and Woodlesford Locks, near Oulton on the Aire and Calder Canal.
The Yorkshire Swan Rescue responded to reports of a dead animal floating in the water, close to its mate and nest.
Dan Sidley, founder of the charity, said: “We immediately responded to telephone calls from concerned and upset members of the public. When we arrived on the scene, the swan was found dead close to its nest containing ten unhatched eggs”.
The swan was removed from the water, and a later examination revealed the bird had been killed by a single air gun pellet lodged in the neck of the animal.
Swans are known as the Queen’s birds and are classed as Crown property. The birds are also fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and it is an criminal offence to intentionally injure, take or kill a wild swan.
The incident has been reported to West Yorkshire Police.
Mr Sidley said: “This is a disgusting and wicked act of deliberate animal cruelty. To shoot a swan while it is nesting is such a mindless thing to do, and I cannot begin to comprehend why anybody would do such a terrible thing.
“We would welcome anybody with further information on the shooting of this swan to contact us or the police so the matter can be investigated fully.”
It is hoped the remaining male swan will protect and incubate the unhatched eggs.
The charity will continue to closely monitor the bird and any potential young cygnets, over the coming weeks.
Mr Sidley urged the public to be vigilant when out walking the canal, and to contact them if they find any injured swans.
The Yorkshire Swan Rescue can be contacted on their 24-hour telephone number 07763424892 or by visiting the website www.ysrh.org.uk