Attacks on swans in Woking have contributed to Surrey’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner calling for laws on the sale and possession of catapults to be tightened.

Ellie Vesey-Thompson visited Shepperton Swan Sanctuary last week after seven birds were shot dead across the county in just six weeks.

In the first fortnight of 2024, five swans were killed in and around Surrey. A further two died, and four were seriously injured, in attacks since January 27. The birds were targeted in Woking, Godstone, Staines and Reigate and the number of attacks this year has already surpassed those throughout 2023.

It is believed that most of the swans attacked this year were pelted with catapults, although at least one was hit with a pellet from a BB gun.

Ms Vesey-Thompson met sanctuary volunteer Danni Rogers, who has started a petition calling for the sale of catapults and ammunition to be made illegal.

Catapults are not illegal in Britain unless they are being used or carried as a weapon. Using catapults for target practice or hunting in the countryside is not illegal, as long as the carrier is on private property, and some catapults are specifically designed for anglers to spread bait across a wide area.

However, all wild birds, including swans, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, meaning it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take a wild bird except under a licence.

Catapults are also often connected to anti-social behaviour, a key concern for Surrey residents.

Ms Vesey-Thompson who leads on the commissioner’s approach to rural crime, said: “These cruel attacks on swans are deeply distressing. More legislation around catapult use is urgently needed. They are also connected to vandalism and anti-social behaviour, a key issue for members of the public.”

Danni added: “The injuries caused to these birds are horrific. They suffer broken necks and legs, broken wings, the loss of their eyes, and the weapons used in these attacks are easily accessible to anyone.”

To sign Danni’s petition, “To make the sale of catapults/ammunition and carrying catapults in public illegal”, visit petition.parlia