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A swan could have suffocated to death after it had a sock pulled over its head in a ‘mindless’ prank by yobs.

Police are now investigating after the bird was spotted with the black garment placed over its head, reaching halfway down its neck.

The swan had a lucky escape after the incident in the Catchwater Drain in Lincoln, on Sunday.

After it was reported to the Yorkshire Swan and Rescue Hospital rescuers quickly came to the aid of the poor bird.

Lincolnshire Police said if the team had not intervened, the bird could have starved, or even suffocated, inside the tight-fitting sock.

Officers said they believed the cruel prank was no accident given how ‘snug’ the fit was.

PC Llewellyn, investigating officer, said: “Any type of animal cruelty will not be tolerated and we will carry out a full investigation into this incident.

“We work with wildlife organisations who report these incidents to us so we can investigate.

“We believe the item had been placed on swan’s head intentionally, due to how snug the fit was and how far down the neck of the swan the tube was.

“We do not believe that this was accidental. Had the Swan Rescue not intervened, the swan would have either starved or potentially suffocated.

“We would like to hear from anyone who can assist us with our investigation or anyone who may have seen anyone around the swan in the water in the days leading up to May 2.”

And RSPCA Inspector Kate Burris added: “The consequences of this mindless prank could have resulted in this poor swan suffering over a long period of time, and ultimately ended in their death.

“Given that this is the breeding and nesting season at the moment, this could have also resulted in suffering and sadly death for any dependent offspring.

“We would urge anyone who has any information as to who may have done this to this poor swan, to call the police on 101, or contact the RSPCA cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.”

All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to kill, injure or take wild birds except under licence.

The maximum penalty, if found guilty, is six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine.