The RSPCA has urged people in the Gwynedd area to report potentially suspicious activity against birds after a peregrine falcon was found with puncture wounds consistent with being shot.
Rescuers from the animal welfare charity were alerted after a member of the public spotted the bird of prey struggling on a road in Penrhyndeudraeth; a few miles east of Porthmadog, last Tuesday (6 April).
RSPCA Cymru collected the badly injured animal, and rushed him to the RSPCA's specialist Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich for urgent treatment.
Specialists found two puncture wounds on the bird's body, including to the chest - suggesting a pellet had gone right through the falcon. Sadly, the extent of the injuries meant there was no choice but to put him to sleep to prevent further suffering.
The charity has teamed up with North Wales Police's Rural Crime Team to ask anyone who may know what happened to this falcon to contact the RSPCA's inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018, or report to Police via 101.
In Wales, it is an offence to kill, injure or take a peregrine falcon - except under licence - under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
RSPCA inspector Mike Pugh said: "This is such a sad and shocking way for such a fantastic bird of prey to die.
"The poor bird was found struggling on the road in Penrhyndeudraeth - and an examination by the RSPCA revealed puncture wounds and, sadly, injuries so serious that the poor animal had to be put to sleep.
"It is an offence to shoot or kill wild birds like this peregrine falcon - except under licence. Harming birds of prey is a serious wildlife crime, and those found guilty face a maximum of six months in prison and an unlimited fine.
"While we cannot know for sure if this was done under licence, we are very concerned and hope someone in the local community can come forward with more information. We are working with North Wales Police on this investigation - and anyone with information can contact our appeal line on 0300 123 8018, or the Police via 101."
Rob Taylor, North Wales Police Rural Crime Team Manager, added: "It's shocking to see such an appalling offence against an iconic species.
"Bird of prey persecution is a UK wildlife priority in the UK and our dedicated team are currently investigating this offence and if caught the offender will be brought to justice.
"We appeal that if anyone has information that may assist us then please call us on 101 or via the North Wales Police online reporting form."