Oatman burros, Arizona.

In the Arizona wilds, burro murders baffle investigators

Oatman burros, Arizona.
In Oatman, Arizona, burros are likely to nuzzle with tourists and are notoriously difficult to move out of harm’s way. 18 burros have been shot and killed in the last five years. Photo credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.


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.

5 thoughts on “In the Arizona wilds, burro murders baffle investigators”

  1. Some people lack a conscience or even a heart. They get away with it because there is no one to enforce the law. Wild burros are not legal game animals, at least to my knowledge. Yet, no one in charge is taking a stand against the cruelty. I can’t realistically think of anyone that is going to deal with the murder of an animal the way we handle the murder of a human, but strict law enforcement should be put in place to prevent things like this from happening. If somebody can go to jail for robbing a store of a few hundred dollars, you can bet your rear that we could easily put such cowards behind bars. Period.


    1. Absolutely agree! I’d go further, and say that people like that SHOULD be treated like murderers. I cannot imagine being so cruel; it’s just plain evil!


  2. This is a very sad state of affairs when a human takes pleasure in killing a innocent burro, it makes me think are these people mentally deranged ????? Im thinking they do it because they feel they wont be jailed for murder if they kill an animal, so they must want to kill people so to avoid jail they kill the animals????? If they make the murder of an animal have the same consequences as killing a person, this would all stop !!!!! Doesnt take a rocket science to figure that out , murder is murder……………………and should be given the same penalty !!!!!!


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