Arizona wildlife managers to gather 1,000 burros to manage overpopulated area

Jan 1, 2024, 6:30 AM


A donkey stands in a section of Lake Mead that was previously under water near Echo Bay on August 18, 2022 in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Bureau of Land Management in Arizona plans to remove up to 1,000 wild burros from the Black Mountain Herd Management Area west of Kingman starting Jan. 8.

The agency says the Black Mountain herd’s population of approximately 1,925 is greater than three times larger than appropriate for the area. The gathering is expected to last eight weeks.

BLM lists herd health, habitat conditions and roadway safety as key concerns with the large population.

“Wild burros essentially have no natural predators, resulting in a rapid increase in population,” Amanda Dodson, Kingman field manager, said in a press release. “If not appropriately managed, herds can double in size every five years. The gather is being conducted to address herd health and overpopulation concerns with a future goal of maintaining a thriving, natural ecological balance on public lands in the Black Mountain Herd Management Area.”

Out of control populations can threaten native wildlife and plants, reduce water quality and impact the health of their own herd, BLM Deputy State Director for Resources and Planning Gerald Davis told KTAR News.

BLM stated communities in Mohave County requested the wild burro overpopulation be addressed.

“As herd sizes have grown, more wild burros have wandered off the HMA seeking forage and water, particularly during times of excessive heat and drought,” Davis said in an email. “As such, wild burros are inhabiting areas within local communities such as Bullhead City, Golden Valley and along Highways 66, 68, 93 and 95.”

In 2018-19, more than 30 burros were struck by vehicles in and adjacent to the Black Mountain HMA.

How will the burros be captured?

More wild burros live in Arizona than any other state with an estimated population of 6,205 as of March. They have protection under the Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act.

The agency will use helicopter-assisted methods to herd the animals, trap them and transport them in vehicles to facilities where they will undergo vaccinations and health reviews by veterinarians.

The process must comply with BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program and under the presence of a U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service veterinarian, BLM said.

Helicopter-assisted gathering practices have come under scrutiny, however.

The American Wild Horse Campaign nonprofit says roundups via helicopter can be more dangerous for burros than horses because burros scatter, which causes longer chases that pose a threat to the safety of the animal.

In May, amendments to the Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act were introduced to the House of Representatives that addressed the use of helicopters.

Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General shall submit, to the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate, a report that describes —

Captured animals will be sent to wild horse and burro facilities in Florence or Ridgecrest, Calif., where many will be available for adoption or sale via the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Private Placement and Care Program.

However, females involved in a fertility control project by the The Humane Society of the United States will be treated and released. The program treats the “jennies” with Porcine Zona Pellucida — or PZP — which is a vaccine that temporarily stall reproduction. The Humane Society saw this as a population control alternative to gathering hundreds of wild burros and having to hold them in facilities.

Females that previously received PZP will get a booster shot, while those part of the control group will receive their first dose, BLM said.

During the fall, the agency opened a 30-day public comment period regarding a 10-year plan to remove burros and implement fertility-control strategies in western Arizona’s Alamo, Big Sandy and Havasu herd management areas, known as the Three Rivers Complex.

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Arizona wildlife managers to gather 1,000 burros to manage overpopulated area