More forest deaths highlight need for driver awareness *H&H Plus*

  • Pictures and stories of ponies and other animals killed on the roads of the New Forest are sadly not rare — but seven equids died in two incidents last month. H&H speaks to those involved trying to protect the ponies

    MORE animal deaths on the New Forest roads have highlighted the need for drivers to be aware of their surroundings and to drive in accordance with road conditions.

    Three donkeys were killed in a collision with a van on 12 December, while four ponies died as a result of a collision with a 4×4 on 31 December.

    During 2020, agisters attended 105 accidents involving stock (ponies, donkeys, cattle, sheep and pigs), compared to 159 in 2019. In total, 29 ponies died in 2020 compared to 35 in 2019. Seven donkeys died in 2020, compared to eight in 2019.

    Head agister Jonathan Gerelli told H&H while figures were down in 2020, there had been a “bad run” of incidents during the last six weeks, including cows and sheep being killed in hit and runs.

    “The bad part of my job is having to inform the owner their animal has been killed. It’s heartbreaking for them,” he said. “When you’re driving in the forest there is a blanket 40mph speed limit, but it doesn’t mean you have to drive at that speed.

    “When it’s dark and there’s poor visibility, don’t just barrel on regardless and say, ‘I’m only doing 40mph,’ that can be too fast in those situations. People become complacent, they get so used to a route and forget the animals are there.”

    Mr Gerrelli added the authorities place grit mixed with salt on the roads during bad weather, which the animals lick from the road, but it was “difficult to say” if this had been a contributing factor to the collisions.

    “With the ponies it may well have been [related to ponies licking the salt] but I don’t know if the road had been gritted that night. The donkey incident I don’t think was related,” he said.

    Mark Ferrertt, whose daughter Katie owned the ponies killed on 31 December, told H&H the number of collisions are “inexcusable”, adding that the family lost two ponies previously.

    “To receive a phone call you’re always shocked and disappointed, but this was a major blow to Katie and the work she’s done in keeping those ponies,” he said. “Commoners are fed up with losing their animals to drivers who cannot respect the area. If people don’t stop abusing the forest these young commoners will give up and leave.”

    A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary told H&H the death of the ponies and donkeys were “tragic accidents”, and this was a “timely reminder” to drivers to be aware of their surroundings.

    “We conducted a thorough investigation into both incidents and there is no evidence to suggest either driver was speeding or driving carelessly. As such, no further action is being taken against either driver at this time,” he said.

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