POLICE are appealing for information after a protected bird of prey was found fatally wounded.

The bird, a young female peregrine falcon, was found alive on land near Hornby Castle, between Catterick and Bedale, North Yorkshire, on Wednesday.

After an examination and x-ray by an avian specialist, it was found that the bird had been shot in the last five to six days with a shotgun.

The shotgun pellets had caused infection and fatal damage to the bird’s flight muscles and tendons, leaving it incapable of flight.

To prevent the bird from any further suffering, it was put to sleep.

PC Mark Rasbeary, a wildlife crime officer with North Yorkshire Police, said: "This is awful. "Peregrine falcons are magnificent birds of prey, however we are finding that they are increasingly becoming the target of people who, for reasons of their own, hold a grudge against them.

"North Yorkshire Police takes crimes against wildlife very seriously.

"Shooting a peregrine falcon is a crime, the bird has the highest protection under schedule one of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

"Rest assured, we will root out the offenders and bring them to justice."

Penalties upon conviction for killing a bird of prey include fines of up to £5,000 or up to six months in prison, or both.

Courts can also order the confiscation of any vehicle, weapon or other items used to commit the offence Witnesses are asked to call PC Rasbeary on 0845-60-60-24-7, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800-555-111.