CAMPAIGNERS working to reduce the sickening toll of animal accidents in the New Forest have decided to focus their efforts on four high-risk roads.

Statistics from the last five years show that drivers are most at risk of hitting an animal between sunset and 11pm on four main routes: the B3078/79 from Cadnam to Godshill, the B3054 from Lymington to Dibden Purlieu via Beaulieu, the C10 from Picket Post to Holmsley and the B3055 from Brockenhurst to Sway.

About seven in 10 animal accidents are now happening on these four roads. The carnage caused can be seen on an illustrated map which offers a stark visual reminder of the need to be particularly careful after dark on the routes of death.

The campaign is more vital than ever after statistics revealed that animal road deaths in the forest were up 13 per cent on 2017 with 63 creatures dying in 2018.

However, says the New Forest Park authority, although higher than last year, this is still in line with the historically low average for recent years. Long-term improvements in reducing animal accidents have almost halved the number of deaths in the last 20 years.

Amongst the initiatives launched last year were touring silhouettes depicting the number of animal deaths in New Forest villages, reflective warning signs have been deployed by Hampshire County Council on key roads during the winter months when accidents peak, and a 24/7 mobile police speed camera van out in the Forest.

And the reward for information on hit-and-run accidents was raised to £5,000.

Efforts to reduce animal accidents will continue this year, including distributing 100,000 newly-updated hotline cards detailing who to call in the event of an accident and highlighting the importance of reporting all accidents as soon as possible.

Head of Recreation Management and Learning at the park authority, Nigel Matthews, said: "Although the long-term trend is downwards, it is disappointing to have seen the increase in animal fatalities on New Forest roads over the last year."

Head Agister Jonathan Gerrelli, who is often called out to deal with the animal casualties, said: "The analysis we have done also shows very clearly that most accidents happen in darkness during the evenings, when traffic is busiest – and therefore during the winter months when nights are longer."

To view the accident maps and statistics in detail visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/animalaccidents.