Published: 13:55, 06 May 2019
| Updated: 10:28, 07 May 2019
A wildlife enthusiast has formed a "duck patrol" team in a bid to catch bird-killers - as more animals have been found dead with pellet wounds by a river.
Thugs using slingshots and air rifles are thought to have killed helpless birds including ducklings, pigeons and moorhens along the Stour in Canterbury.
A fortnight ago, several were found dead on a section of the river which runs through Westgate Gardens, in St Peter's Street.
WARNING: Graphic images.
Yet despite a police appeal for information, and a decision by the city council to step up patrols in the area, the killing spree has continued.
More birds have been reported dead near Stonebridge Road and Barton Mill Bridge - amid sightings of youths targeting the creatures with an air gun and a "very large hunting slingshot".
Vets are said to have confirmed that at least two of the recently found birds were killed by a "single pellet, most likely from an air gun".
Now, 27-year-old wildlife enthusiast James Cosgrove has decided to take action - and is inviting residents to join a team of volunteers dedicated to protecting the city's waterfowl.
Living near the Stour in St Stephen's, Canterbury, James has been looking after ducks for years - re-releasing about 100 ducks into the wild after incubating abandoned eggs and helping orphaned ducklings.
"This time of year there are lots of ducks and ducklings around," he said. "It's unbelievable that someone could wake up in the morning and think 'I'm going to get a slingshot or an air rifle and target an innocent animal that can't defend itself'.
"It's absolutely horrendous. The ducklings and other birds they're targeting are so helpless - their only defence is their wings.
"They're not even doing anything with the animals once they're dead - not that I would condone it if they were. But it's pointless - it's just random death.
"I just suddenly thought 'I've got to do something about this'."
James decided to form a "duck patrol" - a group of volunteers that will monitor the city's rivers on a daily basis.
"For safety, we'll go out in teams," he explained. "It doesn't seem like the people who are doing this are very reasonable - nobody's going to be confronting these guys.
"Our aim is to find and track them. If we see them with a slingshot, call 101 - and if we see them with an air rifle, call 999."
Since forming yesterday, the group has already amassed 20 volunteers.
"And it's still growing," said James. "We went on our first patrol yesterday. We'll be out there every single day in teams, along all of Canterbury's rivers. From Westgate Towers up to Chartham, and down to Sturry Road - we'll cover every single stretch.
'It's gut-wrenching. I don't know how someone could do it...' - James Cosgrove
"I want to make Canterbury feel like a very, very small place to whoever is doing this. It's also a way to meet like-minded people in the community.
"I just really hope these people can be caught - we are willing to do what we can to assist the authorities. If we can get photos of the people, all the better.
"From evidence, in excess of seven birds have been killed so far - and there are stories of more. In total, about 10 plus birds.
"We released 22 ducks we had helped just the other day - and then people said they saw slingshots being used on the river right by my home, where the ducks were. It's horrible to think people could have targeted them.
"It's gut-wrenching. I don't know how someone could do it."
Anyone interested in joining James's team of volunteers is asked to contact him through Facebook.
We may have more to say once the Wildlife Officer has looked at the enquiry, however here is a line for the time being:
Police are investigating the incident. Anyone with information is asked to call 01843 222289 quoting reference 06-1412.
More by this authorLydia Chantler-Hicks