A CYGNET has been found shot and wounded on the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Silsden.

The RSPCA, and Yorkshire Swan Rescue Hospital, were alerted after a member of the public spotted the bird in a 'lethargic' condition close to Brunthwaite Swing Bridge.

Adam Dickinson, an RSPCA inspector, managed to hook the bird using a 'reach-and-rescue' pole and get it to the canal towpath. It was bleeding from a circular wound to the side of its head. Although an x-ray did not show any evidence of a pellet having penetrated, it is believed the cygnet was shot by an air rifle.

Mr Dickinson said: "It may have been a plastic pellet and whilst it was not showing up on the scan, you can see an 8mm hole on the side of the head close to her eye.

"When I arrived at the scene the cygnet was close to an overflow duct and was proving very difficult to reach. She was obviously unwell and was struggling to raise her head.

"Fortunately my reach-and-rescue pole is five metres long and I managed to grab the bird. She was in a horrendous condition and was still bleeding when I got her out of the water. It was really sad to see."

Volunteers from the rescue took the bird for veterinary treatment at a specialist hospital at Skylark Nature Reserve near Selby. She is now on a course of antibiotics and her condition is improving.

The RSPCA is appealing for anyone with information about the incident to come forward. The bird was discovered last Monday morning (September 19).

Mr Dickinson said: "We would like to hear from anyone who has seen or heard anything, as there is no CCTV in the area and it is quite isolated. A farmer who came down to speak to the volunteers from the rescue said he has had three lambs shot this year in the area, so there does appear to be a problem with people targeting animals."

Anyone with information is asked to call the RSPCA appeals line number on 300 123 8018.

The incident has also been reported to the West Yorkshire Police rural crime team, which can be contacted on 101, quoting incident number 13220519563.

Wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take them except under licence.