A “mindless” member of the public who ignored advice and left a gate open put ponies, pedestrians and drivers at risk as four Exmoors escaped on to the roads.
At the start of the Easter weekend, a visitor to Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Benshaw Moor nature reserve failed to close the gate. The ponies were rescued five miles away by a farmer.
“Leaving the gate open not only put the ponies at risk but motorists and walkers too as they made their way along the local roads,” a spokesman for the trust said. “Used to living out in open spaces and not used to open roads with cars driving among them, there could have been fatalities all round had they bolted into vehicles or members of the public.”
As a result, the wildlife charity has issued its “annual plea” to visitors to all its reserves, to ensure they close gates behind them, and take their rubbish home, especially items such as bottles, and disposable barbecues that could start fires.
“How many times do we have to ask people to act responsibly on our reserves?” said the trust’s director of conservation Duncan Hutt. “It’s simple – close gates, don’t trample down fences to access cordoned-off areas and take rubbish home. Every year we ask people and every year people ignore us.
“In this instance, the ponies were discovered safely at Wallington and looked after by a local farmer who we are very grateful to, but the outcome could have been totally different.
“Returning them to the reserve safely took a considerable amount of time and effort, which distracted us from our other conservation work on the site.”
The ponies, provided by the Moorland Mousie Trust in Exmoor, are allowed to roam freely over the 600-acre site as conservation grazers who benefit the environment.
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