Vandalism concern at Wigan nature reserve

The body of a dead cygnet at the Ince green spot
The body of a dead cygnet at the Ince green spot
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Wildlife enthusiasts have expressed alarm after a second nature reserve in the borough in a few weeks was hit by anti-social behaviour

Land at Kirkless Nature Reserve in Ince was burned last weekend and a dead cygnet was found at the green haven, although it is not clear at the moment if it was shot.

Burned vegetation at the reserve

Burned vegetation at the reserve

The local authority says Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have been informed of what has happened and an investigation is under way.

This comes hard on the heels of similar behaviour at Amberswood between Ince and Hindley where reedbed and vegetation was badly damaged by fire and a swan died with an air weapon almost certainly responsible.

The spate of similar events has caused deep concern to nature enthusiast and keen photographer Steve Heaton, who took pictures of the aftermath of the vandalism at Kirkless.

Mr Heaton said: “I was disgusted to see that blackberry bushes have been burnt.

“This activity, along with trying to burn reed beds at Wigan Flashes and grass being burned, is destroying the countryside for all decent people.

“The thing that gets me is that those who kill the swans and other wildlife are not just killing one bird. That swan could have had a mate and raised a family of maybe five or six cygnets, so it’s like these scumbags are killing whole future families of swans.”

Wigan Council, which manages the Kirkless site, has also expressed its concern about what is happening in the borough’s open spaces.

Penny McGinty, assistant director for corporate contracts and assets at Wigan Council said: “We’re extremely proud of our greenheart and the welfare of surrounding wildlife is important to us.

“We are aware of the recent reports of wildlife being targeted at Kirkless Nature Reserve, and this matter was reported to the police who are currently looking into this.

“We have a lot of support from local residents with regards to our greenspaces and will continue to work with partners to ensure that wildlife is protected.

“We will look into air guns being used at the nature reserve and any other form of anti-social behaviour. This type of behaviour is not only dangerous to our wildlife but also to the public who visit the reserve.

“I would urge anyone who sees anti-social behaviour to report it to the police as soon as possible.”

Reporters on social media suggested people with air guns were taking pot shots at birds on the ponds from the high vantage point known locally as the Rabbit Rocks at Kirkless.

However, Wigan Council has also urged caution and said there are other natural reasons which could account for the cygnet’s death.

To report anti-social behaviour in the borough visit www.wigan.gov.uk and search anti-social behaviour or use the council’s Report It app.

The events at Kirkless are the third attack on a nature reserve in Wigan within the past month.

Two separate outbreaks of anti-social behaviour were reported at Amberswood around a fortnight apart.

The burning of reedbeds was strongly condemned as the vegetation would have provided vital cover for nesting water birds over the coming weeks.

Conservationists also expressed disgust when an air rifle was almost certainly used to kill a swan last month.

Inspiring healthy lifestyles’ biodiversity services manager Graham Workman said: “Apart from the cruelty of this I just don’t understand the mentality. We need police to catch them in the act.”