The young cob swan was sliced open by a boat’s propeller but whoever was at the wheel never stopped to help the stricken bird.
Another boat enthusiast rescued the badly injured cygnet but when vets examined the youngster all they could do was ease his suffering by putting him to sleep.
The RSPCA today warned waterway users to be cautious of wildlife when they are having fun on rivers and canals.
Boat-owner Richard Palmer found the badly wounded swan with its skin ripped away from across the top of its body on the Nantwich Canal near Barbridge Marina, Cheshire.
He managed to rescue the cygnet still in its dowdy brown plumage and took him the RSPCA’s nearby Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, where he was assessed by vet who said the injuries were too serious to treat.
The RSPCA suspects whoever ran into the swan would have known they had hit something but they never came to the bird’s aid.
Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said: “It is likely that whoever hit the swan may have known that they had run over something and would have seen it and yet they still didn’t stop to look and help.
“This death could have been easily prevented if people paid attention to speed limits on the canal and slowed down.
“Swans are agile birds and they would easily move out of the way of a boat in time.
“I would like to thank the kind member of the public who stopped and helped the cygnet. Sadly, this was not a happy ending, but at least the cygnet was not left to die in pain at the side of the canal.”
Explaining how he felt compelled to help the injured Swan, Mr Palmer, who has kept boats for 28 years and has one at nearby Middlewich, said: “The cygnet’s mum and dad swam away with his six siblings, and I couldn’t leave him where he was. He was in no fit state.
“I have seen a number of times over the years swans which have suffered as a result of getting caught in boat propellers.
“People who hire boats do not necessarily realise how much force a boat can have while on a canal, particularly narrowboats which have more suction than a cruiser.
“To get in this state the person who hit the cygnet likely didn’t slow down or stop the engine. I think this happens more than people realise.”
Anyone who sees an animal they think needs help, can contact the RSPCA’s 24-hour helpline on 0300 1234 999.
For more advice on what to do if you find an injured wild animal, visit our website at: rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare