Since May, 42 wild burros have been killed on public lands in California’s Mojave Desert and authorities have no idea who is doing it, or why. The small donkeys appear to have been targeted at long-range and shot with a powerful rifle. Some were killed in a group while at a watering hole, others picked off indiscriminately. All within eastern San Bernadino County, all members of the Clark Mountain herd, a group that was, until recently, some 120 animals strong.
The lands the burros roam is managed by the BLM and this is the biggest wildlife massacre on such public lands in California history.
“We are deeply disturbed by this wanton crime and the senseless slaying of our nation’s wild burros,” Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society, said in a statement. “Anyone who is capable of this level of violence must be held accountable.”
BLM authorities agree.
“The cruelty involved in shooting these burros and leaving them to die warrants prosecution to the fullest extent of the law,” BLM’s deputy director for policy and programs, William Perry Pendley, said in a statement Wednesday. “We thank the animal welfare groups for adding their voices to those organizations who value these iconic symbols of the West.”
The BLM has teamed with conservation and animal welfare organizations to offer a reward leading to the capture of the shooter. As of now, that reward stands at $58,000. “With the increasing reward now on the table, we’re confident that someone will come forward with actionable information soon,” Pendley said.
Though non-native to the Southwest, burros were brought into North America by Spanish explorers to be used as pack animals. Popular with miners, they remained in heavy use throughout the early 20th century, when they were eventually replaced by motorized vehicles. Left to fend for themselves in the arid regions that resembled North Africa where they originally evolved, the burros flourished and became an iconic image of the American West.
Since 1971 they’ve been under federal protection with the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Any harassment or harm to a wild burro is punishable by one year in prison.
Photo: Marshal Hedin