SADISTIC yobs have been blamed after a young herring gull was found covered in thick red paint.

The forlorn creature has been taken in by the Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary – but it will be two years before it is able to take to the air as the bird’s feathers have been damaged beyond repair.

Rescuers, who have nicknamed the bird Poppy, were alerted to the creature’s plight last Thursday and found it stranded alone on a Whitby industrial estate.

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Alexandra Farmer, 25, who runs the sanctuary, said: “She won’t be able to fly now because the paint has made the feathers rock hard and stiff. She keeps looking at her feet because they are so red but there is not a way to wash it off.

“It will take a couple of years for the paint to come off in the moult. There is no way to cut the feathers for them to grow back so you would have to pull them all out which I am not going to do.

“I already have a gull pen with about 30 other rescue gulls but she is likely to be bullied.

“I’m going to build a new pen just for her because the gulls will know that something is wrong and they will pick up on that.”

She added: “It looks like the paint that is used on the road. I think two people must have painted her because they have lifted her wings to paint underneath. One person would have held her and the other would have painted.

“They have also painted her face and so I am taking her to the vet to make sure she didn’t breathe too much of it in.”