Police and the RSPCA have appealed for information about a dog-owner who fled the scene of a “horrible attack” in which a swan was killed.
The female bird, known as a pen, was dragged from its nest at Astbury Mere last Tuesday morning.
Witnesses said the dog responsible, believed to be a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was not wearing a lead.
The swan had been protecting her newly-hatched cygnets before the attack, near the water sports centre, during which she suffered two deep puncture wounds to her chest before dying at the water’s edge.
RSPCA inspector Jenny Bethel said: “This was a horrible attack on a swan, which again demonstrates the importance of having your dog on a lead when out walking in the countryside and at wildlife beauty spots.
“She was dragged out of her nest, in which were her two cygnets had hatched in the last 24 hours alongside three other eggs. Her male partner was out on the lake and when I arrived at the location, I could see he was visibly stressed after seeing what had happened.”
The swan’s body was taken to the RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, where a vet confirmed the 5cm wounds from the bite had punctured its chest cavity and would have likely caused her to suffocate. Her two cygnets are being for by Stapeley Grange staff.
Insp Bethel added: “I put the cygnets out onto the water to see if the male might come back to them, but he didn’t. We will release them eventually, but for now they will spend time being nurtured and cared for at Stapeley.
“It is very sad as the nest appeared well concealed at the bottom of an embankment, but the dog was roaming free and managed to get down to it. There are signs around the country park warning owners to keep their dogs on leads, so people should be well aware of the dangers presented to wildlife.”
Congleton residents Sharon and Stuart Neild witnessed the aftermath of the attack.
Mr Neild said: “It was the fishermen that spotted what happened, but the dog-owner just swore at them and ran off in the direction of the Indian restaurant.
“The swan was in pain and couldn’t lift its neck; it was still warm when we got there, and we were stroking her head. The RSPCA took the body and the two cygnets.
“Something needs to be done about this. It’s not all dog owners, but I think this will spark public outrage.”
The attack happened at around 8.15am last Tuesday.
The owner was described as a man in his 40s who was around six feet tall with grey hair. His dog was a dark coloured, long-legged Staffordshire Bull Terrier-type. A spokesperson for Cheshire Police said that enquiries were ongoing.
Anyone who witnessed the attack or has information about the dog owner’s identity should contact the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 or Cheshire Police rural crime team on 101 quoting incident number IML 1287301.