The RSPCA is calling for tighter regulation of airgun ownership after the death of a heron following a shooting near Southport.
The bird was found with a broken wing and two pellets lodged on April 18th.
Initially taken for treatment to a vets in Southport the bird was later transferred to Rutland House Veterinary Hospital in St Helens where one of the pellets was successfully removed.
Care for the injured heron continued at the RSPCA’s Wildlife Centre at Stapeley Grange in Nantwich. After carrying out orthopaedic work to mend two breaks to his wing vets at the centre were cautiously optimistic that the bird would make a full recovery.
Despite the fact that the heron had been eating well he died four days later.
Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre manager Lee Stewart, said: "We typically see between 50 and 70 airgun incidents every year including birds like swans, geese, ducks, birds of prey and pigeons as well badgers, foxes and squirrels. Sadly, many do not make it. Herons, as in this case, are also easy targets. They are not a straightforward species to manage in captivity as they get easily stressed and can be dangerous for our team to work with.
“We’re appalled that people take pleasure from cruelly and deliberately targeting wild and domestic animals in this way but sadly these types of incidents are not uncommon.
“We believe the numbers we hear about only show part of the problem as not all cases will be reported to us directly and there may be situations where animals injured and killed by these weapons are sadly never found - especially in the case of wildlife.”
The RSPCA says it tends to see a rise in the number of attacks on animals in the summer months when the days are longer and people are spending more time outside.
The charity wants stricter regulations around owning an airgun in both England and Wales. It says that measures such as better education, basic safety training for owners and a thorough explanation of the law - including our legal obligations towards animals - could help protect animals from such attacks in the future.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds, their young, nests and eggs in England and Wales and the RSPCA says it will take action against people who are found to have illegally targeted animals with airguns.