MOTORISTS using New Forest roads have been reminded to adhere to the speed limits as foal season has now begun.  

Around 450 foals are expected to be born in the coming weeks – the first having made an appearance over the Easter weekend..  But the arrival of the newborns, which will continue until approximately mid-June, will make for extra hazards on the roads and drivers are urged to use extreme caution and be wary of the animals.

Head Agister Jonathan Gerrelli said: “Foals are coming now and, of course, like any baby they are vulnerable. They will spend as much time as they can close to their mothers but t is not long until they get more independent.”

Mr Gerrelli said the next few months are imperative for the little ones which, once born, will start finding their feet within approximately a week and will be unaware of the dangers of the Forest.

“They may fall asleep at the side of the road,” he said. “Will wake, see mum across the road feeding and run across the road to get to her. Drivers need to be particularly vigilant now – as they should be at all times. It is a wonderful time of year that so many people come to the New Forest to enjoy but people have got to appreciate they need to act with particular caution when they are driving through the New Forest.”

Mr Gerrelli added: “The first few days the foals will stay very close to mum but within a week they start walking around, cantering and being a bit more bold. At the first sign of trouble they always run back to mum so if they become distressed by a car going past or people walking nearby they will bolt. So be particularly careful when they’re around.”

Last year the Forest saw in excess of 350 foals as a result of 10 stallions, Mr Gerrelli said “This year’s arrivals will be the result of 15 stallions so at least 400 foals are expected but there could be as many as 450 if not more. There are also 200 or so donkeys in the Forest which means there are around 40 foals to be born.”

On May 15 there will be 15 stallions turned out onto the Forest until June 19 which drivers are urged to be vigilant of as well.

Nigel Matthews, New Forest National Park Authority’s head of recreation management and learning, said: “Foals are very vulnerable on New Forest roads. They have no road sense and may step or run into the road without warning and because they are small they are more likely to be killed if they are hit by a vehicle. Please always drive past animals slow and wide. Be ready to stop and be especially careful at night.”

Courtesy Salisbury Journal