Dartmoor ponies to be painted in bid to cut road deaths

By Chris Ellis
BBC News Online

Image source, Karla McKechnie
Image caption,
The charity, which plans to fund the project helps ponies, sheep and cattle on the moors

Reflective paint is set to be put on Dartmoor's livestock in a bid to cut the number of animals being killed by vehicles.

The idea is from a project in Finland where reindeer antlers were painted.

Blue paint has been placed on privately-owned ponies to see how durable it is, with reflective beads to be added to the paint later.

Conservationists said motorists would not see the animal, but an "alien glow" which should slow them down.

Media caption,
Sixty ponies have died so far this year

The Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society (DLPS) scheme has been backed by the national park authority.

Karla McKechnie, livestock protection officer for DLPS, said about 60 animals had been killed on the roads across the moor so far this year, an increase on previous years.

She took the Finnish idea to a south-west manufacturer, from where she got complementary tins of paint to test its durability on the animals' coats.

She said two ponies have been painted and the reflective beads could be put on animals on the moor within months.

Dartmoor ponies

Image source, Getty Images
  • The ponies on Dartmoor are not truly wild animals and are owned by farmers who let them out on to the commons to graze for most of the year
  • The pure-bred Dartmoor Pony is seldom seen on the commons because they are too valuable to be left out and to prevent uncontrolled breeding with non-registered animals
  • Numbers have dropped from about 30,000 in 1950 to about 1,500 now
  • The first written record of ponies on Dartmoor occurs in AD 1012, with a reference to the 'wild horses' of Ashburton, owned by the Bishop of Crediton

Source: Dartmoor National Park Authority/BBC News

Bosses plan to paint the livestock along their sides and above their bottoms and tails, "really to get as much on as possible", she said.

Ms McKechnie said it was "early days, but the trial was going well".

"Motorists will not be able to tell it's an animal, they'll just see this alien glow, which might be able to reduce the speed of these motorists," she added.

The charity, which plans to fund the project, although the exact cost is yet to be calculated, helps ponies, sheep and cattle on the moors.

Rob Steemson, Dartmoor National Park's head ranger, said the authority "fully supports the project to reduce the number of road deaths".

"These horrible incidents would not happen if motorists drove with greater care and anticipated that Dartmoor grazing stock regularly wander on to the roads."

Image caption,
The paint has been specially made by a South West supplier, conservationists said
Image source, Karla McKechnie
Image caption,
The "pony paint" will have a reflective element added to it to make the animals more visible in the dark

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