A PONY is feared to have been killed after eating grass cuttings dumped in the New Forest at the weekend.
A year-old foal believed to belong to the dead mare was found wandering nearby, and is now being taken care of by its owner.
The carcass was found in bushes near a mound of grass cuttings left by the cattle grid at Shirley Holms between Sway and Boldre. A second lot of garden waste was found near the car park.
Experts believe it could have been killed by colic or poisoning after eating the cuttings.
Tony Hockley, chair of the New Forest Commoners’ Defence Association, said it could be a garden contractor who is dumping the grass and other waste there.
“It is in large amounts, which leads us to that conclusion,” he said.
“What we need people to understand is that this is a very dangerous thing to do, not only for the animals in the Forest but for the Forest itself.
“This is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) site and to put alien vegetation on it can have a disastrous effect on what grows there, some of which is very rare.”
Dr Hockley is imploring people to spread the word about how dangerous the practice can be, and the fact that it is also illegal.
“As an SSSI, you cannot dump anything there – not even grass, it is illegal,” he said. “Animals eating a lot of it can suffer colic, which can be fatal, and the waste can also have pesticides on it, which can kill them as well. This poor mare probably died in agony.”
He is asking anyone who sees dumping in the forest to call 101 to report it.
Horses must trickle feed because their stomach capacity is just eight litres. They cannot vomit, or release gas. Decomposing grass cuttings in a pony’s stomach can cause such severe gas it can rupture their insides.
Grazing on dumped garden waste also stops horses grazing naturally on a wide variety of food including brambles, heather, gorse and holly.
Dr Hockley added: “There are many local council tip facilities where grass cuttings and other garden waste can be taken. It is completely wrong to dump it in the Forest.”