Wildlife officers are hunting a gunman who shot dead two mute swans and abandoned their grisly remains on a north-east beach.
The pair were discovered on the shore, near St Combs, riddled with shotgun pellets. It is believed that the birds may have come from a nearby nature reserve.
The Scottish SPCA has appealed for information which could bring the culprit to justice.
Inspector Fiona Shand of the animal welfare charity said: “The female swan had one shotgun pellet in her body and the male swan had four shotgun pellets in his.
A post-mortem has revealed the pair died from a massive haemorrhage caused by gunshot trauma.”
The pair were found on the sand on Wednesday, March 23, at which point the SSPCA was alerted.
Insp Shand said it was not known whether the birds had been dumped on the north east beach or washed ashore, and added: “This sort of animal cruelty is completely unacceptable.
“We are urging people with any information to contact us in an effort to trace whoever is responsible.”
Causing unnecessary suffering is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare Act and anyone convicted can expect to be banned from keeping animals for life.
The nearby Loch of
Strathbeg is home to a small number of mute swans.
Last night a spokeswoman for the RSPB, which operates the reserve, said, if the pair are from the area, it could have a major effect on the population.
She added: “We are aware that these swans were found on the beach below Tillyduff near the north end of the reserve.
“Mute swans use the loch all year and a handful of pairs breed here each year.”
She added that all swans are “legally protected” and urged anyone with information about the birds to contact the police or SSPCA immediately.
A police spokeswoman confirmed the force was aware of the incident.
Mute swans have long been considered regal birds. but, contrary to popular belief, not every swan in the UK is owned by The Queen. A ceremonial census – Swan Upping – is carried out on the Thames every year and any unmarked birds are considered royal property.