LIVESTOCK on Dartmoor is still being slaughtered by motorists who are driving at excessive speeds on the unfenced moorland roads.
In 2016 there were 188 road collisions in which 160 animals were killed outright or had to be put down. This year vehicles have collided with livestock on 91 occasions resulting in 82 animal deaths.
Those grim statistics are made up of mainly sheep, along with ponies and a cow, and with it a really hefty loss to the moorland farmers.
Although the total is slightly down on the corresponding period last year, the number of fatalities has disappointed Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society officer Karla McKechnie.
‘While a drop is welcomed, we were hoping that it would be much bigger after so much education and campaigning with the public,’ said Karla who has seen some heartbreaking sights when she is called out to deal with animals that have been knocked down.
The majority of Dartmoor’s 365 square miles are the subject of a 40mph speed limit, but there are many who ignore it, mostly locals.
Recently I went on a trip across the moorland and I pulled off the road not far from Cadover Bridge. On quite a long straight road, ewes with lambs were eating at the side and every so often would cross over. It was frightening to see several cars and vans passing at ridiculous speeds and my heart was in my mouth.
This particular area has seen many sheep killed, and a large wooden board erected at the side of the road hammers home the message to motorists of the sheep death toll.
In the last five weeks, as many sheep have been killed on the B3212 Ashburton-Princetown road at Dunna Bridge Common.
‘During the spring and summer you have young stock and there is constantly going to be livestock on the road and you should slow down accordingly,’ said Karla.
Cllr Gregg Manning, who is currently chairman of the Dartmoor Forest Parish Council, set up a Speedwatch campaign in July last year which covers the various roads for seven miles out of Princetown.
Run by volunteers who have training from police officers, they go out onto the moorland with a radar gun to record the speed of vehicles.
In the 13 months they have had 69 sessions – a minimum of two members and a maximum of four go out for 90 minutes at a time – and even on a good day they have discovered 10-12 per cent of drivers are speeding.
‘The highest speed we have recorded is 84mph, while last week we recorded a car at 78mph at Postbridge, Up until July 25 we had noted that 13 fewer sheep and four fewer ponies had been killed. It could be a blip but hopefully people are taking note of our warnings and it is a step in the right direction,’ said Cllr Manning.
He maintained the standard of driving by those who did not seem to care that there was livestock around, was appalling.
‘We believe most are local drivers and delivery men. The majority of holidaymakers seem to take heed that there are animals about and slow down.
‘Unfortunately some of them stop and that attracts ponies near to the roads. On the other side of the coin there are also the unavoidable accidents,’ he added.
Cllr Manning has lived in Princetown for 11 years and set up Speedwatch because he became so concerned about the growing number of animals being killed each year.
Working closely with the police, there are now 17 volunteers working with him and during a radar speed gun session the data collected is loaded onto a police computer with date, time, speed etc.
In the first instance those drivers recorded speeding will be sent a warning letter (purely educational), and if they should transgress a second time they will be sent a sterner letter and possibly receive a visit from a police officer or police community support officer.
The 69 sessions have recorded 900 speeding motorists.
Three mobile vehicle-activated speed advisors have also been introduced this year.
One has been used at Haytor, another at Pork Hill on the Princetown-Tavistock road and the other at Peak Hill between Princetown and Yelverton, where 105 motorists have been recorded doing three times the speed limit.
Each speed advisor cost £3,000. Two were paid for by the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society and the other by the Dartmoor Forest Parish Council.
They have been set up in conjunction with the Dartmoor National Park Authority who manage them. The machines record every vehicle that passes, the time and speed.
Speedwatch is intending to further step up its efforts to save moorland animals by introducing temporary signs highlighting the number of animals killed on the moor, which can be regularly updated.
Also being looked at are illuminated ear tags on livestock, although, explained Cllr Manning, that would not be allowed on ponies.
While on Dartmoor if you should come across any livestock in distress or see any sheep worrying you should contact the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society emergency number on 07873 587 561.