Salt-lick trial may help save ponies’ lives

  • Salt licks have been sited in an area of the New Forest notorious for animal-related road collisions, in an attempt to keep grazing animals away from the highway.

    In the trial scheme, which has come about after a year of discussions with Natural England and Forestry England, the licks have been put some 135m back from Roger Penny Way, one of the worst roads in the forest for accidents involving animals.

    Charlotte Lines, chair of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, told H&H 17 of the licks, in open-top containers, and tyres, and chained to trees, have been set out, and the situation will be monitored to see if ponies and other animals are using them.

    “When the gritters come out in winter, the animals come out to the roads to lick the salt, so this trial is to try giving the ponies, donkeys and cattle an alternative, safe place to get salt,” she said.

    The association had to have the licks manufactured, as there was nothing similar on the market. Once the weather improves, they will be removed, but Mrs Lines said the idea may be rolled out to other areas of the forest if it is a success.

    New Forest commoner and association member Bill Howells, who instigated the idea, said: “I would like to thank all the relevant organisations who have given us consent to trial the salt licks, hopefully it will make a difference to animal behaviour and accident numbers.”

    But both Mr Howells and Mrs Lines said that although the licks may help, there will still be many animals on and near the forest’s roads, on which they have right of way.

    “The message is that drivers still need to take care, especially when it’s dark and icy, and be aware; expect the unexpected,” Mrs Lines said.

    Last year, 12 ponies were killed in accidents in the forest, a further 12 had to be put down as a result of their injuries and nine more sustained minor injuries. Five donkeys were killed, six had to be put down and two were less seriously injured.

    Anyone who has an accident involving a pony, cow, donkey, pig or sheep is required by law to report it to the police by calling 999 as soon as possible.

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