DRIVERS in the New Forest are being urged to take extra care after a sharp rise in the number of animal accidents.

A total of 181 collisions involving Forest stock occurred last year, compared with 135 in the previous 12 months.

The figures can be revealed just days after a runaway pony caused a fatal accident on the A31.

Motorcyclist Daniel Robins, 31, of Bournemouth, was one of two bikers who collided with the animal at Picket Post last Wednesday.

Mr Robins, a former pupil of Hardley School, Holbury, was fatally injured. The other biker, a 47-year-old Broadstone man, was taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Police investigating the accident closed the westbound carriageway, stranding hundreds of drivers in their cars for seven hours.

A total of 104 animals were killed or injured in the Forest last year – 22 more than in 2012.

Many of the collisions took place on the B3078 between Brook and Godshill and the B3054 from Lymington to Dibden Purlieu.

Other animal accident “black spots” included the C10 from Picket Post to Holmsley and the B3055 between Brockenhurst and Sway.

Sue Westwood, clerk to the Verderers, said: “The accidents were spread across the Forest as usual, but some roads saw significantly more accidents than others.

“Once again the worst two roads were the B3078 and the B3054, both of which are used by commuters.

“The C10 from Picket Post to Holmsley is also a bad road and is doubtless also a commuter route.

“We think drivers fail to adjust their speed when leaving the A31. Going the other way they probably increase their speed along the former railway line and fail to slow down once they cross the cattle grid and start to go up the hill towards Burley.”

Miss Westwood said this year had already seen four accidents in which a cow was killed outright and three ponies had to be put down.

She added: “Our message to drivers in 2014 has to be please slow down, particularly at night when it’s difficult to see animals in the road.

“Even if you don’t care about the animals, think how much damage will be caused to your vehicle if you collide with 400kg of pony or half a ton of cow.”

Last year the Verderers released a photograph of a badly-damaged vehicle in a bid to persuade drivers to take more care.

They said the occupants of the Volkswagen Touareg were lucky not to have been killed or seriously injured in the accident in which a pony died.

Figures for 2013 show that a total of 72 animals died on Forest roads compared with 64 the previous year. Last year also saw 33 hit-and-run accidents – nine more than in 2012.

Miss Westwood said: “If you hit an animal, report it quickly. Have a little compassion and don’t leave something to die in a ditch.”