A notorious swan known as Mr Asbo was fighting for life today after he was seriously injured in a suspected wild animal attack.
The controversial swan, which has been at the centre of a row between rowers and wildlife lovers in Cambridge, was found covered in blood on Thursday morning.
Local residents initially believed he had been shot with a crossbow but vets claim that his injuries are consistent with an animal attack.
Mr Asbo lost a lot of blood after he sustained severe puncture wounds to his neck and was rushed to Maple Cottage vets, Milton, Cambridge, in a critical condition.
Peter Green, an animal collector at the RSPCA, who transported the injured swan to the surgery, revealed one of the puncture wounds pierced the swan’s head.
He said: ”Basically the swan had a hole from one side of its head to the other. He was very weak.
”He was in a very bad state. He lost a lot of blood.”
Barge owner Bob Middleton, known as Battleship Bob, who is a sworn protector of Mr Asbo, rescued the bird after finding him in distress at 7am on Thursday morning.
He immediately boarded a pontoon to rescue the swan at Baites Bite Lock and took the injured bird to safety until help arrived.
Vets treated the ”hole” in his neck and administered pain relief to the distressed swan as well as carrying out X-rays to check the wound was clear.
Bob, 55, of Fen Ditton, Cambs., said: ”His neck and head were all covered in blood. I could see where something had gone through one side to the other.
”I knelt down on the pontoon and lifted him out of the water rapidly and covered him with a blanket.
”I headed back to the barge and moored the pontoon. I carried him into the workshop and put down a blanket, and rigged up a gas heater.
”He was standing up with his neck on his back as they do when resting. I knelt with him and stroked him. He was in shock.
”I was crying this morning. I couldn’t hold it in. They are not just like pets to me they are like family.”
Mr Asbo has caused controversy over recent years after lashing out at dozens of boaters and causing havoc on the River Cam.
In May this year the Cam Conservators made an application for permission to remove the swan to Natural England after first approaching the Queen’s Swan Marker.
But in July, Conservators of the River Cam took the decision to defer taking action on the swan until early next year.
Mr Asbo is now expected to be handed over to the care of the RSPCA to recuperate after he is discharged from the vets.
A spokeswoman for the surgery said the puncture wounds are consistent with injuries caused by animal teeth.
She said: ”It does look like it was a possible animal attack. The markings on the wound would be consistent with him being bitten by a something like a mink, rat or stoat.
”I don’t believe it was anything sinister. He is very bruised and very sore but he is stable. It was very critical when he first arrived.”
Swans are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and illegally taking, injuring or killing them, or interfering with their nests or eggs carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a £5,000 fine.
Mr Asbo in the news