Wild Horse Education

Let’s Not Forget the Long Ears

Blue Wing Burros, NV

Around the world burros have served as a beast of burden and mount.They have survived in the harshest climates, often bearing harsh treatment and tough terrains. They survived the mining industry in the American West carrying prospected ore over land and underground.

Burros are pretty amazing. Burros evolved in the African Desert and are a descendant of the African Wild Ass, (the African Wild Ass is one of the most endangered animals in the world). They can lose as much as 30% of their bodyweight to dehydration and, in one drink, rehydrate in less than 10 minutes.

photo provided to WHE by: Caroline Christie

The BLM has just released a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the “Three Rivers Complex.” The complex consists of Big Sandy, Alamo, and Lake Havasu Herd Management Areas (HMA) “Wild Burro Gather and Population Control Plan.” The HMAs are located on about 955,000 acres of public, state, and private lands in Mohave, Yavapai, and La Paz Counties in northwestern Arizona.

Unlike most EAs, this one has many documents for you to look through as you craft comments including population survey data. You can see that in 2021, 1,313 burros (adults and foals) were actually counted and that the modeling used changes that number to 1,731.

The vast majority of gather EAs you comment on never provide this much info. You should take a moment to look through the documents listed if you have an interest in burros to both craft a comment and can use this as an example to show how data poor other EAs actually are.

You can find the draft EA HERE.

We appreciate the data, we did not say we agree with the conclusion. BLM is carrying over the “Appropriate Management Level” (AML) from the old Land Use Plan (LUP).

The last roundup of burros in the Three Rivers Complex was over 15 years ago in 2003/2004. During that time burros flourished showing that the AML (what the land can sustain) is obviously flawed and AML should be revisited.

Instead, this ten-year removal plan intends to approve the removal of 1,793 wild burros above the current AML’s within the Three Rivers Complex as of January 2024 that BLM deems “excess” through this document. It also approves continual removals and the use of fertility control to keep the number of burros at that AML over the next ten years.

Info from the EA: “The Proposed Action (Alternative A) would involve three distinct types of management activities over the 10-year life of the plan. 1. Initially, the goal would be to gather and remove excess wild burros to achieve a population size as close as possible to AML… Fertility control vaccines  (PZP vaccines, GonaConEquine vaccine) and sex ratio adjustment measures (so that the herd may sometimes be composed of as many as 60% males and as few as 40% females) can be applied even if AML is not reached during an initial gather.”

If approved, we will probably see one of the largest helicopter drive-traps of burros in history this winter. It is important to remember that BLM says burros do not have a foaling season and use helicopters on burros all year long.

Comments are due October 11. You can find more info on the BLM webpage HERE. 

For most burros herds in our country BLM treats them like horses. 

The only lawsuit in the country focused on burros: Blue Wing

Burros are not horses. That seems like a simple statement and you may wonder why it is even necessary to state. (You can learn more about the unique needs of burros HERE)

When it comes to management of (supposedly) federally protected wild burros, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does not even define what a burro is, how it uses the range and even how they reproduce or nutritional needs. The BLM just uses their “horse models” for burros. BLM provides no oversight to keep adopted or sold burros safe from the illegal wildlife trade in burro hides for Ejaio (Chinese medicine) threatening burro populations worldwide.

The only thing BLM seems to do differently with wild burros is to make extra effort to hide capture and handling.

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Above: Blue Wing roundup 2022

At the Blue Wing Complex the only federal court case in the nation was filed by WHE and our partner CANA. Blue Wing is an area where WHE volunteers have been visiting and enjoying wild burros for a very long time. 

The area BLM plans removals covers 2,283,300 acres and they state only 55-90 wild burros can exist in that area. The archaic plans use modeling for wild horses to assert population size and range utilization. The vast majority of the land base is used by domestic livestock and mining. Not only is there a sheer lack of science in BLM removal plans, they never created any actual management plan. There is no strategy to protect burros habitat or genetic viability (Herd Management Area Plans, HMAP), just long term removal plans that offer no opportunity to consider new science, data, threats. 

Burros often suffer horribly during capture and in holding. So at Blue Wing, BLM hid everything. No real access to observe capture (over 1.5 miles from trap and as far as 2.5 miles away). No access to temporary sorting corrals. No access to short-term processing facilities. No access was even given to clearly document a burro on a trailer. After over a 7% death rate during processing (in the first few months) the burros have been shipped all over the country and adopted and sold with no protections from the Ejaio trade.

Nationwide the BLM says that less than 3000 burros is all the land can sustain in all of BLM land western states as burro population worldwide face endangered status. Only around 1000 burros are allowed in all other jurisdictions. At WHE, we find it absurd that most are focusing on how to do population growth suppression, calling it “humane management” while completely ignoring the threats to habitat, the absolute lack of “burro centric science” and absurdly low numbers. (more HERE on the threats to burros worldwide)

America’s long ears are loved by many. Their adorable babies, tough and resilient nature, make them a highlight of social media. 

Our stand at Blue Wing can benefit wild burros nationwide as we fight back to gain science based management and protections on-range, from abuses during capture and to gain needed protection from the seedy slaughter trade. The case is active now with briefing of the courts continuing. 

The attention to the burro can benefit the burro only if  it translates into action. 

Join us. 

Learn more:

Lawsuit filed at Blue Wing

Our wild ones should live free on the range with the families they hold dear. Our wild ones should also live without abuse. WHE carries ongoing litigation to force BLM into open public process to create an enforceable welfare standard for our treasured wild ones. 

Thank you for keeping us in the fight!

 Thank you!



Categories: Wild Horse Education