FEARS that avian flu could be in Cumbria have grown after eight swans out of a family of nine died at Ulverston Canal Foot.

A swan rescuer has spoke of the strange symptoms that the birds displayed before their deaths.

Caroline Sim said: "One of the young ones stopped eating a week and a half ago, but we can't capture them until they are very weak or until they are dead, so there wasn't very much we could do.

"What was strange was some of them had nose bleeds and they were spinning on their axis. They weren't swimming around in big circles, they were spinning in one direction. I've never seen it before in the 10 years that I have done rescues.

"The last of the young swans has been delivered to the vets for cremation and the mother has died, so the father is the only remaining swan out of the group.

"The geese seem fine and the ducks are fine. There are no dead fish in the water and you would see that if the water was poisoned.

"The vet said to me when The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had been that they think it could be avian flu."

Vets in the town have also stepped up their defences, with Alexander Veterinary Centre on Hartington Street posting a sign on their front door.

It reads: 'This practice is taking precautions due to an outbreak of Avian Influenza. We ask that anyone visiting with a wild bird leave the patient in the car and report to reception for further instructions'.

After a case in Cheshire, DEFRA said all 13,000 birds at a farm would be humanely culled to limit the spread of the disease, and 3km and 10km temporary control zones have been put in place around the infected site.

There are now plans to fundraise for a motorboat to help sick swans in the future.

Ms Sim said: "It's been devastating to watch and not be able to help, so I am going to try and crowd fund to get a little motorboat so when they are ill we can outrun them."

DEFRA have confirmed that they are investigating the Ulverston swan deaths.