A heron, which rescuers believe suffered a gun shot wound in Buckley last week, has died at a wildlife centre.

The RSPCA issued an appeal after a “lethargic” heron was found at a property on Liverpool Road, Buckley, on Friday afternoon amid fears it had been shot earlier in the week.

RSPCA inspector Tim Jones said: “We’re grateful to the member of the public who reported this to us, who found a very lethargic heron in their back garden.

“I was able to access the poor bird and sadly, on close inspection, it is feared the bird may have been shot.”

Thomas and Heather Cunningham, who spotted the injured bird sprawled atop a hedge in their garden, were devastated to hear that the “majestic” heron was put to sleep on Monday.

Mrs Cunningham said: “We live on the edge of the trap (small lake) near the middle common and we regularly see herons flying past here, coming in and going out. Last Wednesday, we and the neighbours saw a heron on top of the hedge which is very unusual.

“We called the RSPCA who subsequently turned up and the heron had shuffled to the base of the hedge. We couldn’t see it the next day either even though we looked extensively for it.

“They came again on Thursday but they still couldn’t find it, until one of our neighbours saw it back on top of the hedge on Thursday night. I got up very early on Friday morning and it was still there, so I phoned the RSPCA again and they came, got it off the hedge and cornered it.

“We did what we could to help the poor bird. It wasn’t obvious at the time that it had been shot – it was only observed when it was taken to the vets and the vet stretched its wings and you could see a hole in its chest.”

Mr Cunningham said: “The vet and staff at the wildlife unit had tried over the weekend to care for and to nurse him, but he wouldn’t take food, he was being force fed and still continuing to fail.

“So the decision was made to give him some peace. It is a tragic end to such a graceful and beautiful creature.”

Mrs Cunningham added: “It’s a despair that people can do this to these creatures. The heron was magnificent when it spread its wings. I know people say it catches fish – we see it fishing in our pond in the garden – but that’s life.

“Wildlife is disappearing from the trap. Wild birds are fewer than they used to be.”

A spokesman for the RSPCA told the Leader: “Unfortunately we must confirm the sad news that the heron hasn’t made it. It has had to be put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

“This is the last thing we want, as we try and get them to recover from their injuries, feed them up then let them go free. But sadly this is not the case. We are still looking to peel some information from this potential shooting, and are still urging for information.”

Anyone with information can contact the inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018, and calls are treated in confidence.