Police investigating the shooting of two swans and several pigeons by the River Arle have arrested a 17-year-old youth on suspicion of possessing of a firearm without a certificate.

The boy, from Alresford, has since been questioned by officers and released under investigation while enquiries continue.

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The dead birds were found with 'multiple pellets' in their heads on a footpath adjacent to the recreation ground at Arlebury Park in Alresford on Monday, May 2.

The discovery initially sparked concerns over whether there had been a further outbreak of avian influenza, or bird flu as it is commonly known.

However, it was later confirmed the swans had been shot with an air weapon in what was described as a “heinous act”.

The swans were found by HART Wildlife Rescue, an animal hospital in Medstead - who were also called out to deal with an injured mallard and a wood pigeon in close proximixity.

Their discovery led to a host of nature lovers expressing their heartbreak at the news on social media.

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Paul Michael Reynolds, HART Wildlife Hospital manager, said: "We reported yesterday about two dead swans being found near the eel house on the River Arle in Alresford.

“The initial concern was that avian influenza could be responsible, sadly it was confirmed yesterday by Swan Support who kindly removed the bodies for testing that the pair of swans had been brutally killed with an air weapon.

“They were a male and female pair. Each swan with multiple pellets in their head and neck. We were also called to two other injured birds, a wood pigeon and a mallard all within very close proximity and also on the river footpath.

“Hampshire Constabulary are involved and if you have any evidence or information about these crimes then please call 101 with the reference number: 20220502-1468.

"This is a heinous act which we are sure no one would expect to see in Alresford, a village famous for its wonderful waterfowl. Those responsible should be held to account."

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Kimberley Barber