Fears for animals in Dartmoor after spike in ponies being hit by cars

Fears have been raised over the safety of Dartmoor's iconic ponies after five were killed following collisions with vehicles last month.

Officials say there were seven crashes involving the animals in one week alone and have pleaded with motorists to be careful when travelling through the national park.

Police say they are increasing patrols in the area, after the number of deaths reported to them by livestock owners suggested that the people hitting the animals are not reporting the collision to the police.

Dartmoor's livestock protection officer, Karla McKechnie, has warned that the crashes are a 'really big problem' and that people should contact police so someone can check the pony is ok.

Her warning comes as she revealed seven ponies were hit by vehicles in just one week before February 13, with five of these sadly killed or having to be put down.

The Dartmoor Pony is one of the most well-known breeds in the UK and has become synonymous with the moorland that spans vast swathes of Devon.

The ponies roam free over the moors, often crossing the roads which wind their way thought the terrain, bringing them into potential contact with fast moving traffic.

Ms McKechnie told the BBC: 'We've got a massive problem on Dartmoor, especially at the moment.

'We had seven ponies hit only last month and we just had another one reported to us which was stood not far from the road with a broken back leg.

'It's a really big problem but what we're really trying to urge is that people get help to that animal, not to leave it there suffering.

'So, even if you've hit an animal, and you think it may be OK, please call it in. Let somebody come out and check for themselves.'