New Forest pony dies and another falls seriously ill from eating visitors’ food
FOOD left out for New Forest animals led to a pony dying from choking on a carrot and a second requiring emergency veterinary treatment after eating a pie.
The first animal died two days after it was photographed foaming at the mouth and the second became critically ill after gobbling a discarded pastry.
There are now growing calls for more warning signs in advance of the extra visitors expected to arrive in the national park as lockdown restrictions are eased, similar to what happened last year.
At the latest meeting of the Verderers’ Court, the Official Verderer Lord Manners said he was “saddened” at the latest incidents, adding: “No matter how well intentioned, feeding the ponies is forbidden in the Forest for very good reasons.
“Not only does it change the ponies’ foraging behaviours, but it may cause choke and can and does kill. Fed ponies can become aggressive, they learn to approach people and demand food if they think someone has some to offer.”
Photographs of the pony foaming at the mouth after choking on a piece of carrot were shared online by commoner Suzanne Kempe to raise awareness.
In the second incident commoner Jacqui Vanderhoek revealed that her pony Anna had to receive emergency treatment by a vet after it choked on a pie left at Cadnam cricket ground.
Mrs Vanderhoek said: “She was really suffering – we found her struggling with the blockage at Green Lane. Thankfully none of the choke went into her lungs, so after treatment from the vet she did recover.
“It is certainly becoming more and more of a problem. People think they aren’t doing any harm but feeding the ponies can have fatal consequences.
“Another local resident told me that catering foods have also been dumped on the open Forest at Minstead.
“I have found all sorts of things that seem to have been put out to feed the ponies. Foods with onions and chillies and pastas which are all completely unsuitable.”
Commoners have pointed out that as well as the dangers of choking and colitis, animals which are fed can develop dangerous new behaviours. As reported in the A&T, a car was damaged by a pony at Cadnam cricket ground in a suspected feeding frenzy.
Lord Manners warned: “Fed ponies can become aggressive, they learn to approach
people and demand food if they think someone has some to offer.
“A pony who displays this learned behaviour cannot stay on the Forest and has to be removed for the safety of the public, the same public who fed it. The animal will then face a very uncertain future through no fault of its own.”
The dangers of feeding livestock was repeated to the Verderers’ Court by commoner Gilly Jones who urged all Forest organisations to work together to communicate a clear message to visitors.
Calling for posters to be printed with warnings and other signage before Easter, Ms Jones cautioned: “If we learned anything from last year we know when lockdown is lifted, the New Forest is going to get walloped.”
She continued: “There is a massive requirement for education, from the moment you cross a cattle grid, to every pub, B&B or shop.”
Ms Jones told the A&T later: “It is easy to blame visitors who arrive in the Forest with a bag of carrots to feed the ponies, but there is also a significant problem with local people who are unaware of how dangerous it can be.
“We have heard news about these two ponies choking recently but the problem is likely to be far more widespread. When a pony dies on the Forest we don’t know the cause of death and it is unlikely that commoners will have a post mortem.”
“We need to get the message out there about the suffering that feeding ponies can cause – we need all the Forest organisations working together and we need volunteers out on the Forest talking to people and explaining the issues.”
Concerns about an animal on the Forest should be reported to the Verderers’ Office on 023 8028 2052.