DISTURBING photographs showing a live seagull that had been shot by two crossbow bolts have been condemned.

The images showed the bird, a Lesser black-backed gull, pierced by the two projectiles on Abbey Road, Barrow.

Sarah Neill, a marine biologist who works with animals and animal education in a variety of roles, shared the pictures, taken by her friend and colleague Stephen Dunstan, originally shared the images on social media on Sunday (April 30) evening.

She said: "Unfortunately I have seen things of this nature before.

"I am a marine biologist and teach all the animal courses at Kendal College, including our degree in Animal Management and Wildlife Rehabilitation.

"We have a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre on-site to support this teaching provision.

"We have received victims of wildlife crime of a similar nature to this case in the past but cannot discuss them as they are wildlife crime cases. 

"In my various roles, I do occasionally see deliberate acts of cruelty or persecution, thankfully though I far more often see kind and well-meaning people who go out of their way to rescue animals rather than harm them. 

"I think anyone who commits such a deliberate and unnecessary act of cruelty is a very sick and sadistic individual who should be prosecuted.

"Like all wild birds, gulls, their chicks, and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

READ MORE: 'It's disgusting' - Police investigate after seagull was shot

"It is illegal to intentionally kill, take or injure gulls, take or destroy their eggs, or damage or destroy any gull nests whilst they are in use or being built, unless under licence. 

"Gulls play an important ecological role, including helping to provide population control within a coastal ecosystem.”

An RSPCA spokesman commented on the images, saying:

"This image is very distressing and it is appalling that someone has fired a crossbow at this poor bird.

"It is very difficult to catch a bird which still has the ability to fly so we would ask members of the public to contact us if they believe the bird’s health is deteriorating.

"We’d urge anyone with information about this shooting to call our appeals line on 0300 123 8018."

You can report wildlife crimes by visiting: https://beta.cumbria.police.uk/ro/report/rwc/wildlife/report-wildlife-crime/