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Number of animals killed by speeding motorists on the rise

Photo: ITV News

The number of animals being killed by speeding motorists in our national parks is rising dramatically.

This is leading to calls for more speed restrictions to be put in place.

On Exmoor, 15 ponies were killed in the last year and campaigners say the situation is getting worse.

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The sight of a Dartmoor pony, roaming free across this windswept landscape is one of the reasons people find this place so special but high up on the moor, where the roads are open and straight, some drivers find it all too tempting to put their foot down.

The problem is the animals have a tendency to wander across the road without warning.

Accidents are becoming more common and local farmers say livestock is now dying at an alarming rate. In the most recent crash, two ponies were killed by one car.

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Verity Nicholls, a Dartmoor pony breeder, said "We can actually be gathering in sheep or cattle or anything off the moors and people just fly past.

They don't realise the animals are even going to cross the road. They don't even slow down. Even when you're there with dead ponies on the side of the road the traffic is still speeding past."

Last year 160 ponies, sheep and cattle were killed in accidents on Dartmoor, a significant increase on the year before.

Often the owners leave the dead animals beside the road for a few days as a stark reminder to motorists of what can happen if they drive too fast - they know how distressing that sight can be.

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Karla McKechnie, a Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer, said "I can tell you now it's more distressing dealing with them on a Friday night when they're busted up on the side of the road."

"If it helps, if it's a reminder to everyone to slow down then I'm afraid we've got to leave these ponies down for a couple of days. This moor is a working place for farmers. It's a working landscape. The animals are all here for a reason. Don't spoil it. Let there be beautiful animals on the moors and let it be a beautiful place."

The speed limit across the moor is a blanket 40 miles an hour but many people just ignore it. A community speedwatch group was set up last summer. Of the 3,500 vehicles they've monitored so far, more than 14% were breaking the speed limit. One was clocked doing 80 this month.

The community speedwatch group Credit: ITV News

Gregg Manning, from Dartmoor Community Speedwatch, said "A lot of people are under the impression that it's an advisory speed and not obligatory."

What I'm looking to do is, the gateway signs as you enter the moor, I'd like to get those changed so that it's quite clear that it's a 40mph limit. At the moment it says "Please drive with moor care" which is clearly a play on words but it is a little bit too soft and I think we need to hit home the fact that it is 40 and people should stick to that."

The information the speedwatch team records is handed to the police and any drivers they catch get a warning letter. If they're caught a second time that letter is delivered in person by the police, enough, they hope, to change their ways, before they're involved in an accident themselves.

Credit: ITV News