A protected raven has been found illegally shot near Delamere Forest, Cheshire, triggering a police investigation.

The bird was found in a field by a man walking his dog along the edge of the forest. 

He contacted the RSPB’s Investigations unit for advice and they arranged for the bird to be collected and X-rayed.

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The scan revealed as many as nine pieces of shot in the raven’s body. The cause of the bird’s missing head however is not known.

Cheshire Police carried out detailed inquiries including conducting a search of the area and speaking to local farmers. However no leads were uncovered.

The public are now being called on to step forward with any information which may help identify the culprit.

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s investigations unit says: “The countryside is somewhere we should all be able to enjoy, and our incredible birds and wildlife are part of what makes places like Delamere Forest so special.

“Raven populations are starting to recover in the UK following centuries of persecution and superstition.

"These magnificent birds are protected by UK law, yet this is the latest in a growing number of ravens which have been illegally killed in recent months.

“The persecution of ravens and birds of prey is a serious issue, and much more common than many of us might think.

"It’s incredibly difficult to uncover the culprits in cases like these, and you wonder how many other birds have been illegally shot which we don’t hear about. We would like to thank Avian Veterinary Services and Cheshire Police for their help and hard work.”

Constable Gerard Gigg said: “Can members of the community when they witness any crime involving wildlife or indeed any other suspicious activity report it immediately by calling 101 or 999 if the crime is ongoing.”

If you have information relating to this incident which occurred around March 23 call 101, ask for Cheshire Police and quote reference number: 1910 0137 950.

Ravens and birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form by clicking here.