A swan which was left soaked in petrol in St Helens is now recovering at an RSPCA wildlife hospital after being rescued by inspectors.
An operation was launched to recover the bird from Gerards Lane, Sutton, last week, after the bird was spotted by a member of the public.
The officers managed to retrieve the swan from a lake there and it is now being cared for at the animal charity's Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich, Cheshire, where the bird is being cleaned and monitored.
Animal welfare officer Steve Wickham said: “The swan was quite difficult to catch and we had to get our boat out to safely rescue him.
“He had petrol all underneath his body and his neck. We found a discarded can of petrol in the lake so it is clear that someone deliberately dumped fuel in there with no regard for the wildlife. This was a very irresponsible thing to do.
“People should not dump material in rivers because it can cause untold damage to wildlife, not to mention the risk to the environment. When any bird gets oil on its feathers, it will preen itself to try and clean it off. The oil is then ingested and can cause potentially fatal internal problems.
“If oil is not removed from water birds it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia. It can also stop them flying and means they are not waterproof so struggle to float on water.
“This poor swan could have been spared so much suffering and distress if this irresponsible person disposed of their oil legally and properly.”
The charity is urging anyone who spots someone polluting a watercourse to contact the Environment Agency's 24 hour hotline on 0800 807060. Any wildlife concerns can also be passed on to the RSPCA by calling their own round-the-clock number on 0300 1234 999.