Conservationists and wildlife lovers have hit out at callous thugs after a swan was killed in what is thought to be an attack with an air gun.
The body of an adult bird was found on a pond at the Amberswood beauty spot last week.
The gruesome sight has enraged wildlife enthusiasts who have questioned the mentality of anyone taking potshots at harmless creatures, with a storm of anger being raised on social media.
Concerns have also been raised for the safety and welfare of another swan which has since started living in the same pond at the popular green haven between Ince and Hindley.
Residents who spot people with air weapons in public are being urged to contact the police and to ensure the RSPCA know about any animal cruelty incidents.
Nature lover and photographer Steve Heaton, who spotted the dead swan and took a photograph to raise awareness, said: “Why on earth would anyone kill swans? They are beautiful birds.
“There were problems last year at Amberswood with swans and other birds being killed by people with air guns and now they are at it again.
“A lot of people on Facebook are very angry and upset. The wildlife is there for us all to enjoy and we do not want it killed by trigger-happy scumbags.”
Inspiring healthy lifestyles’ biodiversity services manager Graham Workman said: “We have had issues with a vixen fox killing swans for food for her cubs but my gut reaction is that this is an air gun.
“Apart from the cruelty of this I just don’t understand the mentality. There is no challenge to shooting a swan, they will come to within about three feet of you.
“You could practically reach out and touch the neck of a swan with the rifle barrel. There’s not much boast power.
“If anyone sees people in a public place with an air rifle then it needs reporting to the police, it is a criminal offence.
“We need to get the police on site so these people can be caught in the act.”
Paul Barton, Wigan Council’s director for environment, said: “We are shocked and saddened to hear about the reports of a swan being shot at Amberswood.”
Concerns about air weapons can be reported to police using 101 while the RSPCA’s appeal line is 0300 123 8018.