Dartmoor has been branded “Deathmoor” owing to the increasing number of animals being fatally injured by motorists in the area.
Dartmoor Speedwatch Forum, a voluntary group founded last year to help improve road safety, used the term in an open letter urging drivers to take greater care.
The letter stated that it is the public’s use of the moor that is “killing Dartmoor’s natural habitat, ecology and unique place on this planet. It is rapidly becoming Deathmoor National Park”.
“We’re trying to make people aware that they must slow down and be aware of the animals,” forum secretary Julia Sanders told H&H.
“It has got worse over the last two years — more people are using the roads and not respecting the moor.
“It’s a 40mph speed limit but some people drive at 70-80mph.”
Out of control
Dartmoor livestock protection officer Karla McKechnie said that collisions between animals on the moor and vehicles are a growing problem.
“I really hope things will slow down, it got quite out of control last year,” she told H&H.
“We’re up against it in spring [with newborn animals] but also in autumn when it gets darker.”
She explained that ponies are also attracted to salt on the roads and the warmth of their surface, which is inviting to lie down on.
Ms McKechnie is also concerned that the animals are drawn to the roads by visitors feeding them treats.
“A coach pulled up on the moor recently and everyone came out and fed the ponies. There were 15 ponies on the road,” she said.
“It was almost as if they had visited Dartmoor to feed the ponies.”
She added that this behaviour has “serious” consequences and is damaging to the behaviour of the semi-feral ponies who are not meant to be tame.
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Three mobile speed monitors have recently been installed by Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society, Dartmoor Forest Parish Council and Dartmoor National Park, in a bid to protect the animals.
The solar-powered monitors display the speed motorists are travelling and the speed they should be doing.