A DOG walker has slammed the "mindless violence" he believes resulted in the airgun shooting deaths of several birds in Bolton.

Paul Wheeler found the bodies of several pigeons in Crown Lane in Horwich while walking his dog, all close together and without any signs of an animal attack.

Mr Wheeler said: "I had noticed a couple of pigeons in the area while walking my dog and a couple of days later I noticed more.

"Clearly they had been shot and I thought to myself; 'who would do something like that?'

"If they are going to take pot shots at at a bird, you wouldn't put it past them to shoot someone's cat.

"I know some people consider them pests but they are protected wildlife."

The Bolton News:

While the birds deaths are not certain to be from airgun shootings, Mr Wheeler, a keen amateur wildlife enthusiast, believes that there are several signs suggesting they are.

He said: "The birds are whole- they're not decomposing and they are fully feathered- a fox would have torn it apart and a cat would have definitely taken it home.

"They are big birds too, so if it was poison, it wouldn't act as fast as it would on smaller birds like finches and sparrows- I saw none of them around."

The Bolton News:

Horwich Town Councillor David Grant said: "I saw the photos on Facebook and it is really unfortunate to see.

"Of course, we don't know if they have been shot but the fact that they are close together suggests they could be.

"If it is a young person- or even an adult- going around with an airgun, then it is incredibly dangerous.

"Yes, it isn't a shotgun, but a ricochet could easily take a child's eye out."

People using airguns to kill animals is something the RSPCA has been bringing attention to in recent years.

Last year, they repeated their call for air gun control as it said there is often a spike in attacks during the summer season when there are more daylight hours.

As well as mandatory licensing, the charity called for a range of measures to tackle the problem of air guns.

Nearly half of vets who replied to a British Veterinary Association survey in 2016 said they had treated cats which had been victims of airgun crime and almost half those incidents had proved fatal.

Mr Wheeler added: "Clearly there is something wrong with people if they kill defenceless animals.

"Some would describe it as a sport- I think it is mindless violence."