Swans shot in Chichester - Here’s why this is against the law

A rescue mission was launched at Chichester Canal this afternoon (Thursday, November 27), after two swans were found shot. SUS-191128-164622001
A rescue mission was launched at Chichester Canal this afternoon (Thursday, November 27), after two swans were found shot. SUS-191128-164622001

A rescue mission continued today after two swans were shot in the head at Chichester Canal yesterday afternoon (Thursday).

RSPCA officers were called to assist the Chichester Canal Trust after concerned members of the public had spotted the injured swans. In a statement yesterday, the RSPCA confirmed one swan has been rescued after a mission lasting several hours but the second swan could not be caught before dark. Read more here

In an update today, a spokesperson said: “Our officers returned today to attempt another rescue mission but the swan has flown away. Local people will monitor the bird if it returns and contact us so we can attempt another rescue.”

The RSPCA said the rescued swan had an injury to his head and beak and it is believed he had been shot ‘with some kind of ball bearing type air gun’.

Why harming swans is against the law

It is an offence to injure, take or kill a wild swan as they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The RSPCA spokesperson said swans, their nests and eggs are all protected.

Chichester naturalist and Observer columnist Richard Williamson said the two mute swans shot on the canal were two of approximately 600 living in Sussex.

He said: “There are about 32,000 mute swans in Britain. There’s around 150 in Chichester Harbour alone and there’s a lot in Rye Bay.

“All wild birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, except for about 14 species.”

Richard said a ‘small number’ of swans belong to the queen.

“They catch some in [River] Thames and make a small mark on their beaks to show they belong to the queen.

“It is not really a custom which is around anymore.

“Two centuries ago, people used them in banquets, with ducks and geese. Many landowners had a collection of mute swans, including the Bishop of Chichester.”

The RSPCA is appealing for witnesses to yesterday’s incident. Anyone who may have seen what happened, or who has any information, is asked to call the inspector appeal line in confidence, on 0300 123 8018.

See also: Shot swans rescue mission at Chichester Canal - In pictures