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Donkeys attack visitors at New Forest beauty spot
12:08pm Tuesday 3rd June 2014 in News
TOURISTS are demanding a New Forest beauty spot is fenced off after attacks from vicious donkeys which graze there.
They say the donkeys pursuing and lashing out at visitors are becoming a menace to families.
But countryside authorities last night refused to segregate the waterside spot at Hatchet Pond near Beaulieu.
They blamed tourists for ignoring warnings against feeding the animals which was fuelling their violent behaviour.
Donkeys have struck at least twice in a week – targeting families feeding ducks and picnicking at the popular tourist hotspot.
Warning A 12-year-old girl was bitten on the back by one of two animals which were harassing a man, who was feeding ducks, for food.
Days earlier a nurse and her five-year-old daughter were surrounded and chased by five donkeys before one sunk its teeth into the woman’s back.
Their fearsome reputation has led to calls for fencing and a separated picnic area to be installed.
But last night bosses at the Forestry Commission – which owns the land – denied it is necessary.
But they stressed rangers were monitoring the area as part of their regular patrols during busy weekends and holiday periods.
A spokeman said: “Hatchet Pond is within the open Forest, is unfenced and subject to grazing.
“Car parks and day visitor sites in the open Forest aren’t always suitable for picnics and we encourage people to go to more suitable places within ungrazed parts of the Forest.”
She warned that feeding the animals encourages them to pester visitors and added: “This is especially dangerous in car parks as it encourages animals to walk between cars and onto roads.
“We also discourage feeding ducks and wild birds as the donkeys and ponies will not differentiate between food for the birds and that offered to them.”
Sue Westwood, clerk to the Verderers, the organisation that looks after the Forest’s ponies, cattle and donkeys, said: “We are against fencing off this certain area.
“While we have sympathy with those who get injured, we have to balance it with an animal’s right to be there.”
She said individual owners can only be forced to remove aggressive animals from the Forest if there is a good reason and they have a precise description of the exact animal.
She added: “A situation like this is caused by the public feeding them and it’s a shame that the minority of people are causing problems for everyone else.”
Head agister Jonathan Gerrelli also urged against segregation and said: “Where do you stop with the fencing area?
“You also find gates getting left open and animals congregating around the gates.”
The Forestry Commission has also put up signs at popular locations and in public toilets, warning against feeding and dumping rubbish.
They hold ‘Wild about Ponies’ education sessions in local schools and tourist hotspots.
See forestry.gov. uk/newforest for advice.
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