Painting Dartmoor's Ponies Helps Keep Them Safe Near Roads

CC 2.0 Via Wikimedia Commons // Courtesy Miles Wolstenholme
CC 2.0 Via Wikimedia Commons // Courtesy Miles Wolstenholme / CC 2.0 Via Wikimedia Commons // Courtesy Miles Wolstenholme

If you’ve visited the Dartmoor area in Devon, England recently, you might have noticed a few ponies cruising around with bright, glowing stripes of blue paint on their fur. As part of a trial run for a project to protect the area’s native pony population from motorists, the animals received safety stripes in September, and authorities are reporting that the new method for keeping ponies and cars apart is working.

Thus far in 2015, 74 ponies have been killed along the highly trafficked roads—the privately owned ponies spend most of the year grazing freely across the grassy Dartmoor commons and often wander into the street (as deer or other unfenced wildlife might). For this safety trial, specially formulated paint with a reflective element was applied to the sides and bottoms of some ponies in order to make the animals more visible at night. The intended effect of the paint, as reported by BBC News at the beginning of the trial last month, is that drivers "would not see the animal, but [rather] an 'alien glow' which should slow them down," ensuring that members of both species are safe.

"The reflective element is very bright and despite the horrendous weather it's very visible," said Karla McKechnie, a livestock protection officer with the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society, which spearheaded the campaign. She explained to BBC News that the “moor is a working landscape” inhabited by ponies, cows, and various wildlife, and that if the paint worked on the ponies, they would expand the project to include the various other livestock.

As BBC News pointed out back in October, when the pony-painting plan was still in development, the Dartmoor nonprofit borrowed the idea from the Finnish Reindeer Herders Association. Up to 4000 reindeer are felled by cars in Finland every year, so last winter,, the association took to lighting reindeer antlers with glow-in-the-dark paints in order to prevent traffic fatalities.

With the Dartmoor project now underway, McKechnie said the plan is to “monitor how long [the paint] remains on the animals, and the company behind the paint is trying to see whether it can create an even brighter and more durable version.”

[h/t BBC News]