A family of swans have been rescued from danger at a Wigan beauty spot following a spate of wildlife killings by callous yobs.
The female bird and her young cygnets were taken from a pond at Amberswood between Ince and Hindley and are now safe and well on a canal in Saddleworth.
Concerned nature enthusiast Steve Heaton asked Birds of a Feather Animal Rescue to get involved at the open land between Ince and Hindley after the male swan of the family was lured to a bridge and sadistically killed by a heavy weight being dropped on it.
His decision was also motivated by several previous incidents in which swans were fatally targeted with air rifles.
The rescuers got permission from Wigan Council and took the birds away to a new, less-hazardous life.
The rescue was not entirely straightforward as the birds proved extremely elusive, requiring the volunteers to return with a makeshift dinghy the following day.
Robert Dobson and Becky Tingay who run Birds of a Feather managed to round them up at the second attempt although not without a spot of swimming being needed.
Robert said: “We could see the female bird was quite stressed and it is more difficult for a swan parent to be on her own.
“After what happened to the male we thought it was too risky to leave her and the cygnets there.”
Mr Heaton said: “This was a sad story but now it has a happy ending.
“I have no doubt the people who killed the male swan would have killed the rest if they had been left at Amberswood.”
Penny McGinty, assistant director for corporate contracts and assets at Wigan Council, said: “Like most of the public we care deeply about all wildlife in our area and work hard to provide great habitats throughout our Greenheart area.
“Unfortunately we do not have the resources for staff to be at all out sites every day.
“When an incident like this occurs we work closely with any relevant organisations.
“Swans are protected species and we would urge the public to report concerns about swans being threatened or attacked by members of the public to the police. The RSPCA also deal with animal welfare issues.
“We would encourage anyone who has concerns over the welfare of any wild animals to contact the RSPCA and would remind everyone that only licensed people can handle swans.”
Wildlife crimes should be reported to the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999.