MOTORISTS are being urged to report New Forest animal accidents immediately to prevent unnecessary suffering as new statistics showed the most lethal routes in the district.
Previous guidance had been that collisions should be reported within 24 hours. But verderers have now added urgency following an emotional plea from a young commoner whose sheep were left to die in a horrific hit-and-run incident.
Speaking at the Verderers’ Court, Official Verderer Lord Manners revealed that 100,000 wallet-sized advice cards with the animal accident hotline number had recently been redesigned by the Animal Accident Group and were now being reprinted.
He said: “The card, which many of you know is credit card-sized and designed to be easily carried in a wallet or car, now includes the wording: ‘Don’t delay: To prevent unnecessary suffering, report all accidents immediately. Even if it runs off, the animal may have serious injuries’.”
The change in wording was prompted by a presentment to the November Verderers’ Court by 16-year-old Nicola Denness, who revealed that her two sheep, a foal and a yearling pony had all been killed in hit-and-run accidents on the B3079 near Bramshaw.
Speaking at the time, Nicola said: “Many accidents are leaving animals in pain with internal injuries and broken legs, and they are caused unnecessary suffering and left in a very distressing state. These animals could be left to suffer as long as 24 hours.”
The verderers’ change in advice comes as safety campaigners step up their focus on four key routes where the majority of animal accidents take place.
The B3078 and B3079 route from Cadnam to Godshill is one of four that has been identified by the national park authority as having the highest accident risk.
The others were the B3054 from Lymington to Dibden Purlieu via Beaulieu, the C10 from Picket Post to Holmsley, and the B3055 from Brockenhurst to Sway.
Statistics show that in the last five years, seven in every 10 accidents have taken place on these routes with the majority occurring between sunset and 11pm.
During 2018 statistics show there were 63 animal road deaths – 13% more than 2017.
Although the rate was higher than the previous year, the number of animal deaths in the last 20 years have almost halved.
In 2018 local organisations worked together on initiatives aimed at encouraging safer driving including animal silhouettes touring New Forest villages to depict the number of deaths.
There has also been new reflective signing on key roads, a mobile police speed camera operating day and night, and the reward for information on hit-and-runs increasing from £1,000 to £5,000.
NPA head of recreation Nigel Matthews said: “Although the long-term trend is downwards, it is disappointing to have seen the increase in animal fatalities on New Forest roads over the last year.”
Head agister Jonathan Gerrelli said: “The analysis we have done also shows very clearly that most accidents happen in darkness during the evenings, when traffic is busiest – and therefore during the winter months when nights are longer.”
Commoners’ Defence Association chair Tony Hockley added: “We hope that all drivers will check out the new map and remember which routes are most dangerous.
“It adds just a few minutes to a Forest journey to drive a little more slowly and carefully on these roads.
“Every animal matters to its owners, and to all of us who value the New Forest as a special open landscape.”
Last week in accidents on New Forest roads a chestnut mare was injured and had to be destroyed, and a yearling colt was killed.
The chestnut mare was hit on the B3079 at Wittensford on Wednesday at 9.10pm and was put down by an agister. The colt was killed on Sunday after an accident at 7.45pm on the B3078 at Salisbury Trench.
In other incidents reported to the verderers, a motorist reported a collision with a bay pony on the B3055 at Sway on Thursday at around 10.10pm but the animal could not be found.
On Sunday the verderers also received a report of a collision with a pig on the B3079 at Brook but it could not be located.