The following is from the American Wild Horse Campaign:


The following is from the American Wild Horse Campaign:

This year, wild burros are facing an unprecedented assault on their populations, thanks to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) mass roundup and stockpile plan.

Even worse, the agency is using helicopters instead of bait trapping to chase the animals into traps. Historically, burro helicopter roundups have been traumatic for the animals. Unlike wild horses, burros are incredibly stoic and stand their ground in the face of danger. This has led to documented instances of abuse, such as helicopter skids striking a burro, as well as abusive handling practices by BLM contractors.

AWHC sent observers to document the first three operations on the schedule, and unfortunately witnessed many issues we raised concerns about when we heard the helicopters would descend on our beloved burros. Below is a recap of each roundup, but first we need you to speak up for wild burros and call for a halt to helicopter roundups! 


Centennial, Panamint & Slate Herd Areas, California: Completed

The Centennial, Panamint, and Slate Range Herd Areas (HA) encompass roughly 1.7 million acres of public and private land and are home to an estimated 500 wild burros. The BLM has plans to remove every wild burro from these HAs — a decision AWHC legally appealed.

AWHC had a field representative on site but was not permitted by the BLM to view any of the operations citing “safety concerns.” We did visit the burros in the wild, and checked on those recently captured in holding throughout the week. There was no shade at the facility for the burros, where temperatures right now are reaching the 90s.

The goal of the operation was to capture 490 burros, zeroing out the whole population, but the roundup concluded early with 181 captured. There was one death after a jenny (female burro) suffered a head injury, and injuries such as “rope burn” were reported.

Sinbad Herd Management Area, Utah: Completed

The Sinbad Herd Management Area (HMA) encompasses 99,241 acres of public and private lands and is currently home to 328 burros. As part of a 14-year-old plan, the BLM set the Appropriate Management Level (AML) for these burros to a mere 50-70 animals.

AWHC had field representatives on the ground for the majority of the operation. We witnessed several violations of the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program including contractors reportedly leaving captured burros on stock trailers for potentially hours with no visible access to water and excessive roping, which led to a burro being knocked to the ground.

This roundup ended early, only capturing 153 wild burros instead of the BLM’s goal of approximately 300. There was one death, after a 7-year-old burro fell into a 5 foot crevice while being pursued by a wrangler. His body was left on the range, where AWHC observers found him the day after he was euthanized.

Black Mountain Herd Management Area, Arizona: Completed

The Black Mountain HMA encompasses over 1 million acres of land in northwestern Arizona. This vast habitat is home to — according to BLM estimates — 2,900 wild burros, making these burros one of the largest and most genetically healthy burro populations in the country. The BLM planned to remove approximately 1,080 wild burros.

AWHC had field representatives on the ground, but the public observation was extremely limited. The BLM kept us over ~300 yards from the trap site on flat ground and the contractor’s trailers blocked our view of the captured burros in the trap. From the little we could see, burros were chased for long distances and seemed stressed. One burro even crashed into a gate panel and one burro entered the trap, obviously distraught and from what we could see, attempted to charge the wranglers. The BLM even granted the contractors permission to use electric cattle prods on several animals while loading them onto trailers. But the abuse didn’t stop there. 

The BLM’s own Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program Assessment reported that the contractor’s staff treated burros in an abusive and inhumane manner, including “aggressively hitting and jabbing the paddle into the sides and sensitive areas of burros.” Despite the violations, the roundup continued on for several weeks. The operation concluded on May 25, with 1,109 burros captured.

Wild burros represent the historic and pioneer spirit of the American West and they deserve to be treated as such! So, as we close out Burro Awareness month, please take action to protect them from cruel and brutal helicopter roundups. They need your voice now more than ever.


— The AWHC Team

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