by PETER O’DOWD
In the desert outside of Phoenix, there have been 18 shootings in the last five years, a series of mysteries that has stumped federal investigators.
Let’s be clear, we’re talking about donkeys: specifically, wild burros, the federally protected asses of the Old West. In late January, out among the desert scrub and beavertail cactus, two from the Lake Pleasant herd were found dead.
“We consider that a murder scene,” says Steve Bird, a burro specialist with the .
Thirty-five miles northwest of Phoenix, the dirt road stops at a gate. This is where someone took aim, with skill.
“One bullet hole per animal, right set in the lungs,” Bird says. “It was a good shot.”
These burros descend from pack animals that gold miners abandoned more than a century ago. Today, the feral herd drinks from a desert lake each morning and then scrambles back into these hills in the afternoon.
In 2012, five burros were killed in one day. Eleven were shot in a single barrage back in 2009. The last time anyone got caught, Bill Clinton was president.
The shootings baffle investigators. People don’t eat burro, and it doesn’t look like anyone was harvesting the meat. The Bureau of Land Management believes the motive is nothing more than target shooting.
The Bureau of Land Management says about 3,600 wild burros live in Arizona.