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Pony near Hampton Ridge
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New Forest mammals - an introduction

Sika stag
Sika stag

The New Forest is perhaps best known for its deer. Fallow deer, red deer and roe deer are fairly widespread and can often be seen; whilst sika deer are found in reasonable numbers, but generally only in the south of the area.

Muntjac deer are also present, but these tiny creatures are secretive and rarely seen, although their barking calls can sometimes be heard by those who regularly venture out into the woods.

Badgers are reasonably widely distributed, and so are foxes and rabbits, although in the New Forest, the latter occur at lower densities than in prime habitats elsewhere. (Perhaps surprisingly, animals of all three species often share the same tunnel system).

Grey squirrels are successful colonisers despite sometimes determined attempts by man to keep down their numbers. Sadly, however - as is now well-known - grey squirrels and red squirrels are unable to live together, and so when the grey squirrels arrived, the local red squirrels were driven out, could not compete for food or living space, or, more probably, fell victim to disease brought in by the interlopers.

Hedgehogs are scarce on the Crown lands of the New Forest - there is little suitable food for them - and hares are very rarely seen, probably for the same reason.

Mice, voles and shrews also occur only in modest numbers compared to many places elsewhere – heavy grazing by deer and commoners’ stock, and the consequent removal of ground level vegetation, does not suit them - and stoats and weasels are largely absent.

Bats of a variety of species, including the nationally rare Bechstein's and Barbastelle bats, are, however, present, sometimes in good numbers, but, of course, these flying mammals of the night skies are only likely to be seen or heard by enthusiasts out after dark.

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** New Forest ponies and other animals**
The New Forest
Commoners' ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during 2019 agisters attended 159 road traffic accidents involving these animals, a small but disappointing increase on the 154 accidents attended in 2018.

Sadly, 58 animals were killed - 35 ponies, 13 cows, 8 donkeys and 2 sheep, whilst a further 32 were injured - 3 pigs, 9 donkeys, 11 cows and 9 ponies.

(Forty-three accidents occurred in daylight, 15 at twilight and 101 in the dark. Twenty-seven accidents were not reported by the driver involved).

Here's just one horrific example - Three donkeys killed in collision with van at notorious New Forest blackspot (Advertiser and Times)
** Always take care when driving **
New Forest seasonal highlights
May
Bluebells and other wild flowers brighten the woods, usually in relatively small numbers.
Bird song can be heard throughout the day but is at its loudest at dawn and, to a lesser extent, dusk.
Foals are born in increasing numbers and can be seen beside ever-attentive mares.
Dragonflies are more frequently observed on the wing as spring progresses.

June
Badgers can now often be watched above ground well before darkness falls.
Deer - fallow, red, roe, sika and muntjac deer are all present - give birth, although the youngsters are unlikely to be noticed until July.
Heath spotted-orchids add delicate pink colour to many of the heaths.
Hobbies, dashing birds of prey, can often be seen aloft, hawking for insects.
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley