Wildlife experts have called on people to respect seagulls after a man reportedly attacked a bird with a cricket bat.
The animal suffered a broken wing and had to be euthanised as a result of the “distressing incident” in Lyme Regis.
Dorset Police are now appealing for information from anyone who may have witnessed the attack on Marine Parade, near Poco Pizza, at around 3.20pm on July 17.
The male involved has been described as white, aged in his 50s and around five feet ten inches tall.
He is believed to have spoken in a South African accent and was wearing a grey ‘Jim Beam’ T-shirt and a grey hat.
Experts say incidents like this are “sadly really common” and called on the public to be “patient” with the birds.
Evie Button, a scientific officer at the RSPCA said: “It’s sadly really common for gulls to be attacked.
“We receive calls every year about them being the victim of abuse, whether that’s being physically attacked, having their nests destroyed or even shot at with air guns.
“I think that’s perhaps because they’re nesting around this time of year, they can be quite noisy and perhaps they’re swooping down on people to take food.
“Those are all natural behaviours for gulls and it’s really important that we understand them.”
She added: “Often people don't realise that herring gulls for example, are actually on the UK red list.
“So they're a species of conservation concern because their numbers are declining. So they do have legal protection in the same way as any other wild bird.
“And it's really important that people are aware of that and take care around them.
“We’d really encourage people to change our own behaviour around gulls to try and solve the problem.”
Mel Duffy, assistant warden at Mousehole Wild Bird Hospital said she understood the frustration of seagulls stealing food but called on people to “coexist”.
“We all live on this earth we all should be able to coexist.
“There’s no reason to take it out on a bird. The ice cream is replaceable.
“We absolutely understand it’s a pest when a seagull swoops down and steals your pasty or your ice cream, but you won’t kick someone else’s child because they stole your child’s ice cream.
“So treat the animal with the same kind of respect. You’re entitled to be a little bit miffed but don’t be violent about it.
“It’s not ok to attack another living creature. It’s unnecessarily cruel and it’s also a wildlife crime.”
Dorset Police are asking anyone with information on the Lyme Regis incident to contact them online, quoting occurrence number 55220115158.