Swans decapitated in mystery waterfowl attacks

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Deliberate attacks on waterfowl have increased dramatically, with at least nine swans decapitated in the last three years.

There was a 59% rise in crimes against swans, ducks and geese in England and Wales from 2020 to 2022, according to police data obtained by The Guardian

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Avon and Somerset Police “found the remains of two swans in a blood-filled bathtub surrounded by shotgun shells on open land”, the paper said.

In Dorset, a decapitated swan was found “with an arrow sticking out of its body”, while in Devon and Cornwall there were “three separate incidents of swans being decapitated”. Three more swans were found “with their heads chopped off in London”.

Geese and ducks are also being targeted in increasing numbers. The attacks involved fireworks, BB guns, strangulations and beheadings, the paper said.

“Sadly, we suspect what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg,” an RSPCA spokesperson told the paper.

Earlier this month, police investigated the death of a swan at Mercers Lake near Redhill, Surrey. Dan Rogers, from the Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton, told BBC News that he was called to the scene on 4 June by an angler who had seen someone “use a brick to kill the swan”.

Rogers said he was called to the same lake last summer, when a female bird was “shot through the face with a ball bearing”, although she survived.

“It’s horrible, it’s disgusting, it’s on the increase,” he said. “This is not an isolated event.”

Two swans were found “slaughtered” in Billings Gate, near Louth, Lincolnshire, on 9 May. There were reports that the birds had been found “covered in blood in their nest”, according to the Grimsby Telegraph. Seven of the swan couple’s eggs had gone missing.

On 16 May, an adult male swan was “brutally killed while protecting its nest” at Colburn in North Yorkshire, said the Huddersfield Examiner. Two eggs were also taken from its nest.

It is illegal to injure or kill wild birds, or to damage their nests and eggs, according to the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. It carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.

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