Horse News

Wild Burro Advocate Speaks Out to Trigger Happy Texas Commission

Speech by Marjorie Farabee, Director of Wild Burro Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Hears from Advocacy

Since burros are not ruminants, and they eat a wide variety of plants, they add greatly to the soil, which in turn helps other species. It is their natural desire to travel great distances, in search of food and water, which causes them to disperse seed, over wide areas. In the process of this seed dispersal they are also enriching the soil. One group of animals which benefits from seed dispersal are the birds. Burros do not like to hang out at water holes, and definitely don't lay around in it, so they are not the destructive force they are described to be. As a matter of fact, they are important to the health of this environment.

Earlier this year, I made a trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park to investigate the ecosystems of these parks with Craig Downer a well known wildlife ecologist.  Our purpose was to investigate stories from locals who insisted that the the shooting of burros had not been halted after “burrogate”.  After 71 burros were inhumanely gunned down in 2007, it was widely believed that the shootings had stopped.  Unfortunately, we discovered  since that at least 46 more of these remarkable animals have also been wasted. 

Why do I use the word wasted?  Several reasons.  Firstly, promoting the burros positively is a win, win, win for the parks image, the local economy, and the burros.

After meeting with several parks directors here in Austin, I made a decision then to find solutions that would benefit all involved.  Since that time I put together a team of professional people to research and develop the solutions we all need to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner.

The dedication of these people who sincerely want to preserve, protect, and promote  burros in the Chihuahuan Biosphere has been truly inspiring.  We CAN find solutions that will put the park’s image in a positive light, preserve the historic and cultural heritage of the region, and will add to the economic well-being of the local businesses who benefit from the tourism dollars these widely loved animals generate.   Most importantly mutual cooperation allows our National Heritage Species to maintain its presence in the ecosystem that it has called home for centuries. It is important to note that the heritage of Texas is equally enriched by the contribution of the wild burros.

The Wild Burro Protection League is a consortium of individuals, businesses, animal advocacy groups, and scientists who have been working diligently on this issue.  We sincerely hope that our most supportive partners will be TPWD, and both the Big Bend Parks.  We are dedicated to working cooperatively while  independently funding this community wide effort as much as possible.  However, we are also actively seeking state and local grants.  We hope that TPWD will support our applications for this very reasonable effort to end the park’s present zero tolerance policy for burros.  Clearly, the locals do not want them shot while they peacefully graze in their ancestral home.

With the help of the local support we have garnered and the additional financial support we have cultivated, our goal is to assist in the development of a strong community-supported program.  The Wild Burro Protection League envisions a partnership with the parks that puts emphasis on our common goals.  We want to conserve the land, and its diverse inhabitants, including bighorn sheep.  We want to have the park work with us on studies to determine actual conflicts, and find creative non-lethal ways to mitigate those conflicts.  The Wild Burro Protection League will help with those efforts through grants and other funding.

We would like to put emphasis on studies at this time to determine fact from opinion.  We have inquired and discovered that the park has NEVER done a single study on the burro.  It is a startling oversight considering the importance of this animal’s presence to the fabric of this park as a long-standing resident, and the burros’ standing as a beloved National Heritage Species.   Moreover, it is clear that without appropriate investigation, reporting that the animal causes damage is thus nothing more than OPINION.  Without scientific data to back TPWD’s claims of damage, it is clear that TPWD’s zero tolerance policy toward burros needs to stop.  The Wild Burro Protection League is receiving pleas from around the world to find solutions. We are looking to our future partners at Texas Parks and Wildlife for a cooperative and mutually beneficial effort toward solutions.

Local business from the towns surrounding the park are growing in awareness about what is happening to animals that represent the culture of their little towns.  The burros are a part of the tourist appeal, and they are concerned at the thought of losing them.  They would be listed as partners in our efforts to save the burros too.  Businesses such as Mi Tesora, Jackassic Park, Emily’s “Nice Bread” Bakeria, Refresco, Front St. Books, Rachael’s Art Studio, Red Horse Nation, Johnson’s Feed, Kiowa Gallery, Ivey’s Emporium, The Apache Trading Post, Gallery on the Square, Catchlight gallery, Marfa Public Radio, The Big Bend Sentinel, The Famous Burro restaurant, and many others including members of the Chambers of Commerce in Alpine.

The Wild Burro Protection League is looking forward to working with our future partners at TPWD as we cooperate in finding reasonable solutions that will benefit the many over the few, keeping land stewardship and community involvement, foremost in all of our future efforts to save our national heritage species the burro.   Please do not continue to waste this naturally occurring resource with which the parks have been blessed.  Cultivate the burro culture and develop strategies with us that will be a win for us all.

45 replies »

  1. Thanks for this information, R.T. It’s quite impressive that you have found a way to cooperate with these groups to offer a better future for the burros. Please keep us updated.


  2. Marjorie:

    Excellent effort and post….thanks for featuring it RT. I hope a solution can be found, but as Mr. Long, Editor, Horseback has recently just featured on his site…TDWP (Parks and Wildlife) have been given a 25% cut in budget over the next 2 years. Gonna be tough to even find people to talk to with that kind of cutting. But I bet they will always find the money for the bullets and snipers.

    Good stuff Marjorie. Please keep us/US updated and if you have a donation link (must have missed it when I read), please feature. Glad to see some in the community coming together.


    • Denise, thank you! Our burros need the support of all to continue living in peace and harmony with the environment that has hosted them for centuries and beyond. Indeed, they are a returned North American native, and removing them from this eco-region is removing a thread of the desert fabric. Each thread weaves the whole. Without question, the burro plays a part in the health of the system.

      As a board member with Wild Horse Freedom Federation, I am extremely proud of all the work R.T., Terry, and Laura are doing in support of my efforts to save these sagacious and truly humble animals. Should future legal efforts be warranted, WHFF will need further funding to pursue those efforts.

      As a proactive measure, I have founded the Wild Burro Protection League, in response to the park’s misguided approach to balancing the resources in the park.

      Thus, we are coming at the “people” problem experienced by the burro in a multi-pronged effort to avoid a legal confrontation. WHFF needs funding to support those efforts. Litigation is not cheap. The Wild Burro Protection League will require separate funding in the hopes of acquiring matching grants. Grants foundations look at community support, and funding before they will release funds to any group. WHFF has a PayPal account set up for legal representation, and we will have a PayPal account for protections, and to ease conflicts with the parks and the burros. Please do go to and like our page. We have just launched this site, and are using it to create communication between the parks, the people using the parks, and the foundations we hope to inspire to help our National American icon, the sweet and loyal burro.


    • The Wild Burro Protection League was very grateful to see members of your family at the meeting. How kind and generous of you Diana for asking them to come. I am looking forward to having further conversations with them. Your mom and sister were very impressive people, who clearly had compassion in their hearts. It is obviously a family trait. I am proud to know all of you. Thank you very much, Diana.


  3. How about a “What You Can Do” section for folks that live outside as well as inside TX?

    Also,you may want to see how the snipers are doing. A shooter in this work can be affected by it, believe it or not. I worked with a client who had a contract to shoot feral goats on a military installation. The client came into treatment with PTSD and addictions.

    The point is, if a sniper has mental health issues from this work, it’s another very obvious sign that it is not right. As it should be, such information on these folks will be confidential. But there may be some kind of access.

    It’s like, if the snipers can’t handle it themselves, duh….what does that say about what they are doing?


    • Very good points, Rob; very similar to PTSD for our troops.

      All I can suggest is the first step to recovery (assuming the snipers even acknowledge what they are doing is a bit sick), stop pickin’ ’em off.

      But, I’m sure the TX employee medical system is skimpy on mental health coverage.


    • read thats how they kill horses in australia, snipers on helicoptors.

      same here in america ,another very expensive gov paid service (think of the cost for a helicoptor to shoot wildlife)

      I did read once that back in the 50s? 60? our national parks would put out an advance warnings for ranches to gather the horses they wanted- because they were going to shoot all horses in the park.

      They will never change untill the horses are gone forever. They would shoot eagles too if they could get federal payments to do so.


    • Excellent point Rob! We have just built a page to gather our findings, and gather people together who are interested in saving this amazing animal from being the targets of bullets. We, will be creating a PayPal account soon. The funds generated will be used to attract matching grants. We welcome all to come and “like” our page. We will keep you updated on our progress moving forward, on this page.


  4. Please keep us updated how your efforts are being received. As Rob said please put up a “what you can do” esp if you don’t live in TX. I would hope they put a moratorium on wasting any more burros until they begin to work with your information. I will send the list of businesses that support the burro’s right to live bullet free to some friends that live in TX in hopes that they will patronize these places and to make certain the merchant knows it is because their humane stance on the plight of the burros.


    • There is a problem with accepting the premise, “the burro problem”. What problem? None have been identified scientifically. What I see is a people problem, and a truthiness problem, not a burro problem. If they do not have data to back that claim then they are guilty of slandering the burro.


  5. So not only are the burros NOT a nuisance animal it looks like their presence is not only important to the local tourist economy, but most importantly vital to maintaining a sound eco-system for other wild animals in the spreading of seeds. Not having done any scientific study, the loss of the burros could lead to an even greater tragedy of the loss of other animal species.

    I can tell you as an avid hiker, the presence of wild burros in Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, makes me want to visit those areas.

    R.T. and others check out this outstanding organization that saves donkeys with a sanctuary in Texas– It’s official name is Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue.


    • Veronica, it gives me great hope when I see a response like yours. We feel very strongly that the park’s approach will be detrimental to the entire region for a multitude of reasons. I am grateful that you have homed in on those aspects.

      While I deeply appreciate all of the efforts made by PVDR, their failed attempt to rescue the burros in 2008 shows just how difficult the terrain is that we are discussing. After two years, PVDR did not capture a single burro from this park, not one. They did accept 20 that were captured by USDA crossing the Rio Grande, and have placed them in one of their satellite locations. To date, the PVDR now concentrates its efforts on the domestic donkeys they find starved, and abused finding them loving homes when ever they can. They are not in the wild burro trapping program any longer.

      We value their partnership in their efforts to promote the burros sweet, humorous, and loyal image. We applaud the work they do to help the wild burros domestic cousin. And, I appreciate greatly any group that has the well being of burros/donkeys as their mission. However, there are other rescues that have experience with capturing wild burros in rugged terrain. Diana Chontos comes to mind, from Wild Burro Rescue in CA.


  6. Very informative..When you posted the shooting of the burros, I did write to the
    fellow namd in the article. After 2 or 3 emails, he seemed to get short on answering my questions. But never the less I did ask him two very good questions of which he did not have an answer. One can only hope that those hired to PICK OFF THE BURROS suffered some remorse. Its just disgusting that people are ordered to do such a thing. But look at some of the other states that are annilating the wolves and coyotes who are their natural predators. Human beings have become the greatest predator for all species. What is sad is that the number that perpatrate the killings are a select few. Again, they just want to blast away and forget any studies that may shed some very good information regarding their role in the environment. Just shows the stupidity of those put in charge of one of our greatest national resources.


    • Gail, are you referring to Kevin Good? He has been very forth coming with information about procedure at the park. I am most hopeful that they will continue to provide us information in the spirit of problem solving. It was a bit alarming to realize that they had 183 shooters that they deemed “qualified” to carry out “humane” shooting. It set me back on my heels, quite honestly. Kevin Good has been very forthcoming, so I would deeply appreciate that he not be berated on a personal level. Only the policy should be attacked. It serves no one well to take condemnation to a personal level. Condemn the shooting policy, not the shooters. They are carrying out orders.


  7. great work for the burros.
    When ever I ask the blm or park person, why is it 200+ years ago the lands were totally pristine yet had millions of wild horses,burros and buffalo on that same land? They never have an answer. They won’t even admit the horse species evolved only on north america.

    It’s all about keeping their paychecks and enjoying those lovely federal contracts that make them very wealthy.

    by the way a new discovery (on discovery news atm) with arabian horse- proof of horses domesticated *9,000* years ago. Would love to have DNA research done on the bones/remains of the thousands of lakoda horses the military ordered killed in mass.I bet those horses were native species(lived through the ice age and did not die out) and not spanish lines.


    • Laura, you have raised two points that are near and dear to my heart. Firstly, there are eye witness accounts from the Big Bend region that were written at the turn of the century. One such account described a place with so much grass that “it could never be eaten down”, and went on to describe cottonwood stands, rich farm land, and clear running water in the streams.

      Then, during WWI the price of meat rose enormously, creating a boondoggle for livestock ranchers who moved herds into the area in enormous numbers. Within 20 years time they laid the area to waste. The same eye witness (L.O. Langford) who described the land in 1907, as pristine and fecund reported that the land was barren and that watering holes were fouled, by 1927. The land has still not recovered from these events. The grasses which had protected the watershed were no longer present to slow the waters coming off of the mountains, resulting in the lush farm lands below being covered in rocks and destroyed forever.

      When hearing these accounts, and there are many, one must keep in mind that the burro was always there. If they were such a destructive force as the parks wishes to portray them to be, why would their presence for hundreds of years not have produced the damage the parks claim that they do?

      Secondly, are you aware of the works of Yuri Kasinski? He wrote on the Indian Pony, and his ideas are very thought provoking. Not only does he not support a complete die out, but he also offered other proof to reintroductions that occurred long before the Spaniards. One needs to consider these as reputable if one understands the history of the time. He stated that the horses and burros could also have been reintroduced by the Asians and the Vikings, both of whom predated the Spaniards.

      There are archives of Custer’s despicable act of mass killings, and even photographs of the pits that were dug to bury the Indian ponies. They are described as being smaller with larger heads than the horses brought back by the Europeans. I too wanted to see a study done of these remains but unfortunately those are ancient burial grounds, and one would need to approach the Indian council to approve excavation. I doubt that this would be allowed, but perhaps it would. It would not hurt to ask.


      • I don’t believe they EVER died out!

        Anthropologists/forensics are getting closer to proving that. Leave it to arrogant Europeans to assume they brought them BACK to North America….how would they know there were not any equines left????? Most of the country wasn’t explored or populated until the mid 1800s. And I believe I read somewhere that there is no way equines couldn’t be here, based on Native Peoples’ oral tradition. The numbers of equines and the Native Peoples’ timeline don’t support extinction. Not that it would matter to the killers.


  8. The Burros made it into Oprah’s magazine:
    Whether it’s the “troll capital of the world” or home to a national grits festival, every town has a story. They might be small, but they each have something unique about them, something that puts them on the map, something residents are known to brag about (and justly so). Explore and celebrate small-town USA.

    By Bradford Dworak
    Original Content | January 27, 2010

    Oatman, Arizona


  9. Interesting that Oprah has an article that includes wild burros, but I think the article is naive and simplistic. Oprah could have provided a more biting and important piece on wild burros if she had investigated abuse rather then treating them as a tourist attraction. Robert Redford would do a better job.


    • Ellen, unfortunately, the burro is not so well known as the horse to people. Personally, I think the article to be a good opener for people who have nothing vested with them one way or another. It is good to see them being seen as the truly curious, and friendly animals that they are by nature. Perhaps later she can discuss what really happens to them elsewhere.


      • I knew of the burros before the mustangs as I am from SoCal and spent a lot of time in the upper and lower deserts; magnificent spaces and wildlife.


  10. Remember this? We’ve been trying to get the Wild Horses’ and Burros’ story on Oprah’s show for the longest time:
    Oprah Free speech rocks
    AMARILLO, Texas CNN Free speech not only lives, it rocks, a beaming Oprah

    Winfrey said Thursday after jurors rejected a multimilliondollar defamation lawsuit by Texas cattlemen. The Amarillo, Texas, jury decided the television talk show host did not maliciously harm the U.S. beef industry in a 1996 program on mad cow disease.
    Plaintiffs who say the show caused a cattle market plunge that caused them to lose 11 million said they planned to appeal, and were pleased if the trial caused television talk shows to become more responsible


  11. Glad you brought that information front and center. NO Studies. Decisions cannot be rational if there is no actual data to work from. The same is true with the wild horses. NO Studies. To think that years go by and the animals we want to protect have been at the mercy of policy and opinions with laws that are overlooked or nonexistent. Change is due. This group looks hopeful, Marjorie!


  12. Thank you Marjorie & R.T. Even if we don’t always include the word “burro” in comments, we horse advocates do include ALL wild equines, whether horse or burro! 🙂 We love them both! GO Marjorie! Whenever I think of wild burros, I remember “Brighty of the Grand Canyon”!! 🙂 To kill any animal, in cold blood, for no reason, &, they DON’T have any reason, is animal abuse, animal “murder”, inhumane, & just not right!! Maybe someone should point a gun at them, see how they like it! Those people are past SICK, & should be removed from society, just like the BLM!!


    • Brighty! When I read your comment about that dear little burro, Valerie, I shot up out of my chair and grabbed the book from my collection of Marguerite Henry classics. Then I spent 15 minutes re-reading the happy ending. The self-admitted murderer Jake Irons is forced to haul the gunshot-wounded Brighty out of the snowbound cabin on a sled. And Brighty, realizing he’s free after being cooped up in the cabin for days on end, lets out a “steam-whistle bray, high and joyous: ‘Eeee-aw! Eeee-aw! Eeaw-aw!'”

      Thanks to Marjorie and her ilk, the burros of Big Bend will soon be able to join Brighty’s song, “We’re safe. No more shootings. Eeeeeeeee-awwwwwww!”


  13. Well, last I checked my lexicon…when one human shoots another living being (no matter the reason, law of land warfare and the fact that the victim is unaware they are in the cross-hairs), the shooter is a “sniper”.

    Beings like Bin Laden, way, way different than burros in a state or national park. And even Bin Laden knew he was in the proverbial cross-hairs because of terrorism activities; as to burros. wth???????


  14. I don’t know if you’ve seen “The Donkey Whisperer” ad for Roger Williams (R. TX), whose running for Congress from the 33rd District. It’s a real hit on the Internet. Maybe a constituant should ask him, since he’s gained so much attention (and, I’m sure, contributions) from exploiting donkeys and burros, whether he feels he should take a stand to protect them from being killed at Big Bend.

    Here’s his official website:


  15. It’s not all that far of a step to cross the line from violence against animals to violence against humans. The killing of those Burros in that Texas state park is a chilling account, and the fact that it has been kept from the public is even more disturbing.


  16. I entirely agree, Louie. When animal abuse– which I consider torture and a crime again nature–is encouraged and employed by large organizations like the government, then people are desensitized to violence and come to consider it “natural.” Of course, it is natural for human beings to imprison, torture, abuse, and kill. Animal abuse is a very small step away from child abuse. Our civilization permits and often encourages both. What does that say about the level of our civilization?


  17. How come this country is so darn quick to kill any animal that some moron in the top spot (think management) says is somehow disabled? Are we that high and mighty that anybody lower on the totem pole can be trashed?

    These folks haven’t even done a study? Just shoot on site because?

    This may sound silly but somehow the things that Peter Paul and Mary sang spoke went to jail for–those things are the very same that we fight for for our four legged friends.

    If only I had a Hammer…


  18. Absolutley, appauling that anyone would just snuff the life out of these burro’s …Thank God for folks like Marjorie and Craig to care enough to find solutions, while some folks just treat these amazing burro’s as garbage. They need to get a heart……


  19. I remembered hearing about donkeys being abused in Donkey Roping rodeo events. Big scandal in Mineral Wells, TX in 2009 that drew national and international attention, since it violated TX law against horse tripping and roping horses for sport. Homegrown abusers get donkeys cheap from the Sale Barn ($10 or less!) or, I’m sure, for free locally or on the Internet.

    I found this about Donky Roping, and was puzzled to see that the BLM offers ungelded jacks. Do abusers adopt or buy from the BLM to breed more donkeys/burros to ruin or kill? BTW, the article contains two direct quotes from BLM folks reguarding gelded/ungelded jacks that contradict eachother. Does policy vary from place to place? If so, why?

    P.S. The writer adopted two burros from the BLM, and it took 18 MONTHS for a compliance officer to show up to inspect her facility and the animals. I assume she got title to them after a year. I’m sure local BLM offices are under-staffed and cash-strapped, but after 18 months, those burros could have been long gone to Hellsville!


  20. Check out “Donkey Roping”! NOT the disgusting “Urban Dictionary” kind, but the “mad-cowboy” kind. I wrote a long comment that WordPress swallowed whole, so I’m making this one brief. PLEASE read this article, which has two direct quotes from the BLM that contradict eachother. Also something we need to know about BLM adopter compliance visits.


  21. I was just reviewing the comments here and so want to say that i admire so much Marjorie’s patience and ability to work with people who do not appreciate animals, keeping the long-range goals in mind rather than exploding in anger, as I would be tempted to do. It takes a lot of moral fortitude and a lot of wisdom to be able to get people to change their ways, learn about science instead of opinion, and cooperate to create a safe environment for the wild burros and all wild equines. Thanks for the good information and the admirable work, Marjorie.

    Also, I love the saying that a wise man has long ears and a short tongue. I will try to lengthen my ears and bite my tongue. If we try hard,maybe we can grow nice long donkey ears.


    • Ellen you are so kind! I wish we could move more quickly on this. But, I am one average person and I have 145 equine under my care at the ranch. It cuts into what I can realistically do. I spend every spare hour on this. I love these animals so much, and feel they are being severely underrepresented. Now, with our Wild Burro Protection League, we are getting more organized.

      We are soon planning to deliver our petition to TPWD and Rick Perry. We have over 100,000 signatures and growing. Please sign this petition and share it if you have not already. The burros will thank you for it by being there to appreciate when you visit Big Bend Ranch State Park.

      Recently, Terry Fitch was kind enough to drive myself and four donkeys to Alpine TX to engage the locals in protecting the wild burros. It was a success, and what we learned is that the local people want their wild burros left alone. They want them to stay in the park, and they don’t see the need for them to be shot.


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