READERS have reacted with shock and sadness after a swan was allegedly shot and killed by a gang of youths.

As reported in yesterday’s The Bolton News, a swan was found dead in Little Lever, and is reported to have been shot with what is believed to be an air rifle.

The RSPCA is investigating the incident that took place on a canal.

Swans mate for life and the bird’s partner is said to have been left ‘very distressed’ by the incident.

The bird was popular among people who walk along the canal.

Stu Rodgers said: “I’m gutted. I used to go down the canal to see how they were.

“I was going to go down over the Easter weekend but was busy. I hope the people responsible are caught.”

It has been reported that a gang of around 10 16-to-18-year-olds was seen near the canal at around 2pm, when the shooting is believed to have taken place.

The police were called to reports of youths shouting and found the dead bird when they arrived.

Darren Booth said: “ I just can’t get my head around why people would want to end the life of a poor defenceless animal.”

Maureen Dumbar, said: “It’s heartbreaking. I’ve fed these swans and their young for many years and really hope they catch these scumbags.”

The RSPCA expressed its shock at what had happened, saying it would be ‘really concerned’ if the swan had been killed deliberately.

Anyone found guilty of killing a swan could face six months in prison or a fine of up to £5,000.