Wild Burros of AZ Black Mountains on CBS

Wild Burros Captured by the BLM
Wild Burros are disappearing and under as a great a threat by the BLM as the Mustangs. Photographer unknown.

Written by CARL MROZEK

Just a quick invitation to watch wild burros that I filmed in the Black Mts. of Arizona, one of their few remaining refuges in the US.

Two to three decades ago there were thousands scattered across the badlands of the West and Southwest. Today, there may be less than a thousand left in this vast landscape as they have been removed from our public rangelands (mostly by the BLM) to make room for ever more cattle and to favor game animals like mountain sheep and deer which share parts of their original range. They’re almost gone from areas where they abounded just several years ago including Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.

I hope you managed to catch them this Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning, starting 5 minutes from the end of the show (about 10:25 am in many Eastern markets).

You can also watch it on CBS News Sunday Morning.

If you do catch it there, please register to leave a comment. It may help persuade CBS to let me produce a news report for them regarding why our wild burros are disappearing so rapidly.

You can also connect with CBS via Facebook and Twitter to log in.

Thanks and happy trails!

Carl M

Wranglers corral, cart off wild desert burros (Calif.)

Laurie Hammer tells us:

We are losing more of our wild burros as you are reading this. We will have no wild burros left in California after the roundups this fall. California is the last state in our nation that had wild burros. Like the wild horses that are rounded up, the wild burros that don’t get adopted, get sold.

She refers to the story below by David Danelski, The Press-Enterprise

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A helicopter nudges two wild burros on, in the Panamint Valley on federal land north of Trona on Friday, September 25, 2009.  The roundup over the course of seven days herded over 250 burros, done by a private contractor. Kurt Miller, The Press-Enterprise
A helicopter nudges two wild burros on, in the Panamint Valley on federal land north of Trona on Friday, September 25, 2009. The roundup over the course of seven days herded over 250 burros, done by a private contractor. Kurt Miller, The Press-Enterprise

A HELICOPTER HERDING FOUR BURROS WEST OF DEATH VALLEY flew so low over a dry lake bed that it raised dust clouds, and came so close to one of the animal’s hindquarters, it appeared to touch.

The pilot had flushed the three adults and a foal from a thicket of mesquite in the Panamint Valley and worked the burros through fields of low-growing pickle weed.

Meanwhile, wranglers on horseback and foot waited at a V-shaped trap made of netting behind another thicket. When the burros arrived, the cowboys whooped and waved sticks with plastic flags, shooing the animals into a steel-bar pen.

The two jacks, a jenny and her foal had been ensnared early Friday morning by the federal Bureau of Land Management’s burro roundup aimed at evicting the burros from public lands on or near Death Valley National Park, the China Lake Naval Weapons Center and Fort Irwin National Training Center.

Bureau officials say these animals are a nuisance that damage wildlife habitat and may get in the way of military training operations.

Burro roundups that started last week had captured at least 239 wild burros by Monday, said BLM spokesman David Briery. Roundups will continue this week along the lower reaches of the Colorado River, where allowed burro herds are exceeding prescribed limits.

The catch to that point included 157 herded with helicopters from bureau-managed and military lands. The bureau caught another 82 burros in water-bait traps, essentially pens with one-way, spring-loaded doors. Burros, attracted by water and fresh alfalfa, walk in but can’t get out.

All are brought to BLM corrals just outside of Ridgecrest, where they are examined by a veterinarian and prepared for adoption. The agency holds adoption events for wild horses and burros throughout the West, including one held Saturday in Redlands. Most wind up as pets.

Bureau officials say the burros consume scarce water and food needed by bighorn sheep and other wildlife and their manure fouls springs and other water sources. And military officials fear they could get in the way of military training exercises

“Death Valley park is very close to here,” said Briery as a helicopter sputtered over the dry lake. “We can’t maintain a herd here because they’ll go into the park.”

Bureau officials add that the roundups rescue burros that may otherwise die in severe drought conditions. Several burros caught in the water traps were very thin, said Alex Neibergs, a BLM wild horse and burro specialist. But others were healthy.

California Wild Burro Roundup

IN HARM’S WAY

Burro advocates say the animals should be left alone.

They contend helicopter roundups injure some animals and sometimes foals get left behind.

“There just aren’t enough burros left to do harm,” said Diana Chontos, who shelters more than 200 burros at her sanctuary in Olancha, when contacted by cellular telephone. “Why would we want zero burros on these lands? It’s just ridiculous … They worked for us for 6,000 years, but now they are vermin. Why can’t they stay?”

Asked about burros’ effect on wildlife, she said she doubts it’s significant. She added that bighorn sheep populations are strong enough to allow for some hunting.

The four burros captured early Friday appeared to be exhausted after being chased for several hundred yards but otherwise looked healthy — save for an older cut on a foal’s shoulder that had scabbed over.

As the four cooled their hooves, the helicopter again appeared over dry lake bed, but this time it chased a herd of about 20 burros. It zigzagged and circled to keep the burros moving toward the trap instead of scattering.

Once the helicopter rounds up wild burros into the draw, riders on horseback move them into a pen, in the Panamint Valley on federal land north of Trona on Friday, September 25, 2009.  The roundup over the course of seven days hearded over 250 burros, done by a private contractor.  Kurt Miller, The Press-Enterprise
Once the helicopter rounds up wild burros into the draw, riders on horseback move them into a pen, in the Panamint Valley on federal land north of Trona on Friday, September 25, 2009. The roundup over the course of seven days hearded over 250 burros, done by a private contractor. Kurt Miller, The Press-Enterprise

The cowboys soon were kept busy shooing animals into captivity as the burros entered the traps in groups of two to six at a time. Within a half hour, 26 burros were penned and ready to be loaded onto livestock trailers.

“Things are working sweet,” said Neibergs, who watched the chase unfold through binoculars.

A LONG HISTORY

Burros have roamed California deserts since miners started used them for their muscle power more than 150 years ago, but they aren’t native species. While the mines have closed, the burros have adapted.

But they now appear to be losing ground because of the federal roundups, said Carl Mrozek, a documentary filmmaker from upstate New York, who has been observing burros and wild horses in the California and Nevada deserts for about three years.

“It’s gotten a lot harder to find burros to photograph,” he said Friday after videotaping the helicopter roundups. “They are getting boxed into smaller areas. They are basically getting swept off the range.”

Neibergs said the Panamint Valley once had a herd of more than 100 burros, but federal land-use plans dating to the 1980s call for no burros in this valley west of the Death Valley park, which is a wildlife sanctuary. Federal plans for the California Desert region envision wild burro herds only in two areas, both near the Colorado River.

QUICK CAPTURES

On Friday, the professional cowboys working under a contract with the BLM were pleased with the capture of 26 burros in less than a hour.

“It’s a lot burros for this place, but I’ve seen more,” said Adam Goodrich, a cowboy from Roosevelt, Utah, as he took a break.

His boss, Karen Cook, owner of Vernal, Utah-based KG Livestock, added: “Some were stubborn and didn’t want to go with the helicopter, but today is a good day.”

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By DAVID DANELSKI | The Press-Enterprise | Story URL

Reach David Danelski at 951-368-9471 or ddanelski@PE.com