A stark warning has been issued after a swan was shot with what is believed to be an air rifle.

The bird landed on the roof of the marina office on Weymouth harbourside, and slid down to the floor.

The swan was so badly injured it had to be put down by vets.

Now, swan warden Derek Davey is speaking out to raise awareness of laws surrounding the use of air rifles – and warning people that shooting protected wildlife such as birds can lead to an unlimited fine and even a jail term.

Mr Davey said the swan which had been shot was a female, and had raised cygnets at Radipole Lake in previous years.

Her mate will pine for her loss, he added.

The death is even more significant because the swan was an important breeding bird, and Mr Davey said swans are struggling to raise broods on the lake.

He said: “The staff at the marina office heard it roll down the roof and land on the railings, and I got the call to come out.

“There was a round hole in the bird’s wing where a pellet had gone through.”

He believes the bird may have been shot in the Lodmoor area, as it would not have been able to fly far after being injured.

While a number of ducks and herring gulls are shot, it is unusual for swans to be injured in this manner, he added.

Mr Davey took the swan to Dave Cumber vets, as there was a ‘fair amount’ of blood on the wing and chest.

He added: “Upon inspection we found a single shot wound on the wing, which the vet concluded was caused by a firearm. 

“As the injury involved a single shot wound, the firearm was most likely to be an air rifle. Unfortunately, the injuries were critical and the distressed swan was euthanised.”

Under the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981 Section 1 it is illegal to shoot any protected wildlife, which includes swans, and there are unlimited fines and even custodial sentences for those who do so.

The incident has been reported to police.

A spokesman for Dorset Police confirmed the force was alerted at 11.53am on Sunday (5) to reports that a swan had been found injured in Weymouth Harbour.

The spokesman added: “The swan had been shot in the wing and sustained a shattered bone. 

“The swan was taken to a local vets but sadly had to be put down.

“It is not known what the swan was shot with.”

Mr Davey said he wanted people to be more aware of laws concerning the use of air rifles.

“You can only shoot certain species of animal, but even then you can’t use one within 50 yards of a highway.

“If you see someone using an air rifle illegally, please report it to police.”