Horse News

West Texas Wild Burro Controversy Flares Again for Texas Parks

OpEd by Steven Long ~ Editor/Publisher of Horseback Magazine

While Perry Campaigns his Park Rangers are Shooting Wild Burros

Presidential Candidate Rick Perry takes aim at Texas wild burros

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Three years ago when former Texas Parks and Wildlife parks director Walt Dabney issued a moratorium stopping shooting of wild burros in the vast Big Bend Ranch State Park animal advocates quieted down. The shootings were halted after a flurry of bad press in the local Big Bend Sentinel and in the statewide Horseback Magazine.

Now that donkey killings have resumed under new parks commissioner Brent Leisure, the public outcry has dramatically increased, with 60,000 names on a petition and a possible ricochet into the presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Contacted by Horseback Magazine last week for an interview on the issue, Leisure punted, kicking the controversy to an underling, Kevin Good. Horseback responded saying the issue was getting legs and required comment from the top. Both Leisure and TPWD head Carter Smith’s email addresses were provided.
The Perry campaign will likely have to respond to the issue because the Texas governor will almost certainly be compared to Alaska’s Sarah Palin who advocated shooting wolves from the air prompting howls of protest from wildlife advocates and outraged citizens. The outcry may be worse in Texas where equine advocacy groups are already active fighting horsemeat processors shipping thousands of domestic horses across the border to Mexican abattoirs. The burro killings are also likely to be linked to the alleged inhumane treatment of wild horses in the American West during helicopter driven stampedes by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Texas Parks and Wildlife launched the resumption of donkey killing with Perry’s approval advocates claim.

The petitions are being sponsored by the website,

Wild Horse and Burro advocates claim the state agency is attempting to rid the park, 70 miles across, of burros to make way for Big Horn Sheep, a big game animal coveted by wealthy hunters.

The state agency counters saying the app. 70 burros are destructive to the huge park’s fragile landscape and that the burros are not a native Texas species. They also claim to have worked with wild horse groups to humanely capture the burros yet none of the animals are in captivity.

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55 replies »

  1. Leisure’s career at TPWD began in the early 1980s when he was hired as seasonal summer help. He has served brief periods over the last five years as acting state parks director. Most recently, he has served as director of Region 5, including 16 state parks in southeast Central Texas. Prior to that, he served 11 years as general superintendent of the Lost Pines Complex that includes Bastrop and Buescher state parks.

    Contact and Phone Numbers
    (512) 389-4866


  2. If they are still shooting over Thanksgiving break or in December-January, you let me know, Texas advocates. Maybe it’s time to be a human shield.


    • Rob please come to and see what we are doing. There is a tab to wild burro protection league on that blog. I am looking forward to working with you, Rob. I enjoyed your approach to problem solving at the International Equine Conference.

      True to their word the ASPCA, SPCA, and TexasSPCA, have contacted me. They are interested in seeing if there is a legal avenue. Our Wild Horse Freedom Federation funds are presently not huge since we just started this, and need to be targeted to help Laura with her court cases, so their offer of legal help is much appreciated.


  3. Just sent an email to Governor Perry regarding the killings. I indicated that perhaps this should be a question for him at one of the debates. Its time to put a hault to all these useless killings. How can yu ignore 60,000 legitimate
    signatures? Thank you to all the courageous people who are going forward for the burros. You have my support and if I was down there, I would be right next to you protecting the burros.


    • Gail, remember tourism is key to these parks, and the locals who want the burros to stay. Always mention future visits to the park, as leverage. I was contacted by a friend from Canada who visited the park, not knowing burros were there. They then drove to Oatman, CA so that they could observe wild burros. The gift shops were ordered to remove all novelty items depicting a burro from their gift shops by Dan Sholly, one of the shooters, in 2007. They will not mention burros in literature about the park either. The only place they could not rid themselves of the historical nature of the burro to the area, was in the books they sell on Big Bend.


    • I’d love his e-mail address. Dogs and cats are not natural out there either yet I’ll bet he’d freak if someone shot his dog or cat because it wasn’t a part of that areas ‘history’. Leave the burros alone you creep!!! How would you like it if someone shot your animals or if the just knicked them with a bullet and left them suffering? These burros have babies too and should have a chance at life. How cruel can people be??? I want to cry. It makes me literally sick to my stomach. Can I have his address? I want to go see what kind of pets he has.


      • Shari please go to Abby’s blog there are numerous numbers and contacts there for you to use. That posting is about 3 down on the blog.

        It gets worse! Karen uncovered a document that was sneakily written to keep it from being found with a word search by excluding the words donkey or burro from it all together. It is the park plan which is too kill All kinds of wildlife including the burros. This includes elk!

        They have a single minded goal of developing bighorn, and nothing else matters to them. They are even in the process of trying to re-write history by stating that the burro has not been there that long at all, and they are all domestic animals turned loose.

        We have documentation that they are lying, but they have printed this officially on their website to confuse those who only know a little about the issue.

        We are not going to allow them to mis-inform the public anymore. We intend to counter everyone of their documents. For instance, in our recent FOIA request, we asked for e-mails. David Riskind who is the Director in charge of resources, put out an e-mail blast that was “high priority”. He asked his employees to come up with damages caused by burros, Stating, anything, just find me something on the burros”. Pretty calculated slandering of these sweet animals.


  4. This is one state and one species and not many individuals… why did it ever came to shooting burros again? This is one place to do something for the nearly decimated burro population of the West.

    How hard can it be for a governor to save a few hundred or more burros?


      • Mar we can not find by whose authority this has been instated, but David Riskind of TPWD says that they follow the Sierra Club guidelines. That is like saying they follow the Wild Burro Protection League guidelines. They are a club, and should not have such status. However, Sierra Club caters to hunters now. And, wealthy hunters want bighorn, so they call the shots. The Desert Bighorn Council has stipulated that to release bighorn certain requirements must be met. Those requirements include removal of the long standing centuries old presence of the wild burro. They should be ashamed of themselves. Without studies they could well cause the collapse of species that depend on them for survival. Furthermore, they state that there are limited water sources in the park. They fail to mention that there are over 250 springs in the park and a huge river called the Rio Grande. They simply are not credible, and they are not scientists, and they certainly are not conservationist.

        Marjorie Farabee, Equine Manager
        Todd Mission Ranch and TMR Rescue Inc.,
        director of wild burro affairs Wild Horse Freedom Federation,
        founder of the Wild Burro Protection League


      • The Toiyabe Chapter-Sierra Club is a NOTORIOUS wild equine haters club….you can throw Audubon Society with multiple chapters that are antiwild equine.




  6. I didn’t sign the petition before because I thought I had to be a resident of Texas. But I did sign yesterday. And yes, I wholeheartedly agree that this is just flat out wrong.

    I don’t understand man’s need to kill every living thing that comes across its path. We have teens shooting each other and themselves. No one knows how to agree to disagree without pulling a weapon of one sort or another.

    If we as adults are suppose to model behavior for the kids and all we do is shoot–really what hope is there for the next generations to come?

    I don’t understand the need for shooting and I don’t understand why the BLM can’t or won’t set in writing simple standards of humane care. What is wrong with people that think this sort of behavior is somehow acceptable?


  7. The truth about a person’s nature can be found by observing the choices he makes, not by listening to him profess his faith or by noting whose endorsement he has. A Christian is reminded at least once a year that Christ chose to ride upon the back of a burro, Palm Sunday. Still, Rick Perry apparently has no qualms about these burros being killed in a Texas State Park. Heaven forbid he should ever become President. Imagine what he would do to our wild horses, burros, and mules in the West. He’d make sharp shooting Dave Catoor a billionaire with our tax dollars. Fast and Furious Part II.

    Would someone please tell these under-thinking-capacitied peopled department heads that burros do not take geography. They are native to the area where they are in Northern Mexico and Southern Texas. That is the habitat that they have adapted to over time. They were never taught that if they are able to cross the Rio Grande into Texas that they are illegal immigrants.

    People who have adopted wild burros and donkeys love them. They are gentle and affectionate creatures and do not deserve to be shot in their natural habitat so that some non-native species like Big Horn Sheep that will either struggle to survive or be shot and killed anyway can be killed by some big-shot corporate game hunter. Perhaps a look at Perry’s campaign donors would be in order.


    • Christie you are so right! Would you be willing to compile such a list? And, would you be interested in joining in on some of our working pages? Frankly, Karen and I are spread very thin. We are doing all that we can, but we could sure use some willing minds to help us out. Go to Abby’s blog at and then to the tab that takes you to our wild burro protection league page. We need all the help we can find for thi


  8. It would be a politically wise move for Governor Perry to listen. It sounds as though he has made enough enemies, already. It is doubtful that there are enough Big Horn Sheep hunters to help him get elected.


    • You did hear the story last week what Perry’s hunting lodge is called? I seriously doubt this man is the caliber to care about burros. I mean c’mon. Listen to him. He wanted Texas to secede from the nation. He’s a bought and paid for politician.


  9. Rick Perry we want someone in office that is compassionet to people as well as a wild horses and burros. It’s bad enough that we are trying to stop export of our horses to Canada and Mexico. We can’t vote for a man who has no humane bone in his body. We need you to stop any future killing of these animals.


    • Perry told GOP subgroups at some recent conference they didn’t have a heart because they were against giving children (brought by no fault of their own) of illegal immigrants in state tuition at TX colleges/universities. So evidently, Gov Perry thinks he does have a heart. He has always been an IDIOT in my book of record.


  10. I just went to Perry’s presidential website and scrolled to the bottom to contact him and asked him why he cannot stop the slaughter of these defenseless creatures. I also told him I care about animals and I vote. We are overtaking the NRA in numbers. Let him know this is an issue for alot of people.


      • R.T., Abby is patiently waiting for her girl Terry to come over and give her that ear rub!

        This is really good news that we are getting coverage, but, R.T. what we have just uncovered today will make your skin crawl. They have an action plan that includes the removal of animals like the elk! They have posted on their site, “Facts about the feral Burro” that is pure fabrication. It is slander, and we are going to stop them. We must counter this official site.

        Thank you, again my friend for being so conscientious about our little wise burro. You know you want one. Come on. Your horses would get great peace from them, and so would you and Terry. They are true healers. Seriously, they are.



      • AMEN MARJORIE!!! EVERYONE needs to have their life made BETTER with the addition of a DONKEY, BURRO, LONG EARS, to their barns!!! There is NOTHING to compare to having the LOVE, DEVOTION and WARMTH that these wonderful little creatures WILLINGLY GIVE to those who love them!!! I have had many horses and LOVED THEM WITH ALL MY HEART, and they have loved me in return….BUT the two donkeys that I now have have gone BEYOND THAT LOVE and have shown me that THEIR WAY of sharing and giving of their love is BEYOND even what a dog gives!!!! They love without ANY expectations, and show devotion better than any dog. I never expected to be so loved when I got my donkeys but the love that I get from them is unable to be fairly expressed in mere words. You honestly have to have one in your life to understand. THEY LOVE!!!! THEY CARE and THEY SHOW IT!!!! RT, do yourself a favor and get a donkey in your life NOW!!!! They are SO amazing, and have such a great attitude and even a sense of humor that you won’t believe!!! Each one is SO unlike the next and SO easily picked out of a group because of it’s individualism!!! They may all LOOK alike, color-wise, but those EYES will give them away EVERY TIME!!!!
        I’m guessing that I have given away my love and admiration for these wonderful gifts from God…and if I had the land I would have more than the two that I now have!!! I have always loved them and finally have them, and will NEVER, EVER, EVER, be without them in my life!!!
        Add a breath of excitement, fun, humor, love and laughter to your life….get a donkey!!!!!


      • Thanks Marjorie…I just got done listening, and NOW I want to see COPIES of all of these so called DOCUMENTATIONS that have been done proving that the donkeys are causing all of these so called destructive happenings to the Texas Parks lands… This moron…Brent Leisure ( must stand for lazy brain ) really did alot of hemming as he tried to think up what to say next. For his comments about the non-indigineous species ( donkey ) to be causing all of this mass destruction, BUT CAN’T PROVE IT with any DOCUMENTED STUDY!!! HOW did he get this job??? Surely wasn’t because of any intelligence!!! He is less qualified than my cat!!!! He wouldn’t admit that the only reason for this is because of the money they hope to generate selling licenses to butcher big horn sheep….which have to be brought in!!! Why don’t they just do as I’ve said before. Buy up some land, totally fence it off with chain link the animals can’t jump, give it some fancy “ranch type” name…(Double B-S for Bullet Butcher Spread) so that their fancy assed millionaire city-slicker “hunters” can go out in jeeps, find the animals and shoot until one gets lucky and actually hits one. Matters not if it gets injured and runs off…won’t get far because of the fencing….so what do they care about “fairness” or “ethical” hunting….no different than shooting wolves out of airplanes. This way, These bastards with the Texas Parks can have the animals and GUARANTEE the holders of the tags will get an animal and they can make their blood money fast and have a good turnover….Plus, by having them in a fenced area of at least a couple hundred acres,(that will give the “hunter” some exercise, they can pretend to be really hunting, and the rest of the animals won’t have to worry about getting in the way. Granted, the shooting will bother them until they get used to hearing it, because with the Texas weather, there could be year round hunting…who cares about the breeding seasons for these animals…it’s all about the money, right????) BUT by being fenced off like this, none of those destructive over grazing burros will be able to eat up the food that the sheep eat…. Since when did sheep eat the same foods as equines???? Wild sheep and domestics eat pretty much the same forage, and from what I’ve seen my donkeys eat, there wouldn’t be any form of competition in the wild, unless they all found that same bale of alfalfa at the same time!!! My donkey Abner LOVES tumbleweeds…the dry, blow across the prairie tumble weed!!! Goes for them like they were candy, AND gained weight eating them!!! Cut my hay bill by better than half for him that one winter…until he had cleaned his big pen up and ran out of them!!!
        I know that I’m new to donkeys and having them in my life, but I know what I have read and found from my own experiences and that moron Brent hasn’t the intelligence of a cotton ball when it comes to the donkeys and he sounds just as ignorant. I loved the way that Mr. Davies sounded when he asked him about the studies that must have been done to know that this damage was being done by the donkeys….I can only imagine the rather disgusted look on his face by the sound of his voice… It is truly sad that this is still happening to an animal not guilty of anything more than living…We have a long row to hoe between the killings that the BLM is still planning on and the destruction that the Texas Parks Department wants to continue doing… I pray that all will soon find an end and people who can do this will come forth to do so. Congress continues to plug their ears and shut their eyes to all of the PROOF of the abuses the mustangs and burros are going through and ignoring what is happening in Texas. Madeline Pickens has given the BLM the PERFECT place for the mustangs to go yet they REFUSE to even consider her for even one horse to be there!!! They would rather continue to flood the already overcrowded holding pens with more horses. Makes it easier for some to disappear on those one way trucks to Mexico because the numbers are to high to notice a couple truckloads being removed now and then…… All of this is just wrong…. I just wish I had the money to put something together and get it on television where MANY MORE people would be able to see this and realize what is happening right under their noses !!!! One doesn’t have to be horse crazy to care about all of this!!!


  11. Well I posted on Rick Perry’s fb page–and was called ridiculous–and another offered that donkey meat was tasty and could feed the poor. So– 60,000 petition signers will stand firm,wait and see what he does about it— and vote accordingly.


    • Again, remind HIS FB page that traditional livestockers need help with water and hay.

      Someone that believes in whacking equines are tasty, are simplified idiots, know nothing on the topic of HCHS or participants or is a clear facilitator. An equine flesh eater that is happy, does not make the current system moral, right or correct, especially in the true agricultural sense.

      Post away, but his zombies are idiots…because as Hightower says…Mr.Gov Perry has serious issues,


      • Denise, OH MY! Thank you, I had not thought about Jim on this issue. He would rock the boat for sure! I think we need to get this info to Romney’s campaign headquarters too.



    • Ann THANK YOU for bravely facing the enemy. There are those who are just blood thirsty fools, but your argument, placed on his page is read by many who are not blood thirsty and are now getting a new glimpse of this presidential wannabe. It “ain’t” pretty. Kudos to you!



      • Thanks Marjorie–and all the others who posted. Now I feel sad for the big horn sheep ! Who is advocating for their lives? Trophies be damned.


  12. Please contact Black Beauty Ranch to ask them to stand up and fight! They were started by airlifting hundreds of burros out of the Grand Canyon to prevent them from being shot. Certainly they can handle nitwitPerry if they can do that! Please email them. I am getting crickets as a response from them.

    Ranch Mailing Address:
    PO Box 367
    Murchison, TX 75778
    Phone: 903.469.3811


      • I don’t know what they are doing in Hawaii, but this is in their state and they are way, way too quiet about it.


    • I don’t want to denigrate them, but I will say what I do know. The Black Beauty ranch in Texas was established by Cleveland Amory who was responsible for saving hundreds of lives when the Grand Canyon decided they no longer welcomed the humble burro.

      He also helped Diane Chontos with her rescue of burros from Death Valley, and used to help her rescue to the tune of $10,000 a year which she grew to count on. When Cleveland died he bequeathed his money to HSUS and wanted burros cared for with the funds.

      Diana no longer receives ANY help with her over 200 burros, and Black Beauty Ranch now hosts horses mostly with only a few burros.

      Recently they helped get the burros out of Hawaii and flew them to CA which was a wonderful thing to do. BUT they have not helped the burros at Big Bend until recent contact today.

      I was on a conference call with HSUS executives and executives from ASPCA, who are willing to help us with legal aid for these burros. So, they are late, but it appears they will be helping our group of advocates from here on out. I hope so because we need their clout.



    This is a link to an article about the NC Wildlife Department shooting 10 fenced deer that is in our local paper today, Tuesday, Ocotober 11, 2011 (in case others track back to this later).

    It is interesting to compare how different states handle similar issues, and I think it informs our thinking in terms of problem solving.

    I posted a link to the article in Horseback. I spent several hours yesterday trying to send links to the Horseback Magazine story to media we don’t usually use as well as to the debate organizers. Don’t know if it will get published or get traction.


  14. in fairness to Governor Perry, which I offer because he is a fellow human, the gardasil issue has been, in my opinion, interpreted through Michelle Bachman’s lens. I know we don’t do politics for the sake of politics, but we do do fair.

    My daughter has come of age during the gardisil age, and I have been a middle school teacher in NC during this time. My child’s doctor in Atlanta recommended it for her, when she reached 11, and she has had three doctors advise she have it in NC. I won’t comment about whether she has had it or not since she is now an adult and this is her business, but I think it helps give perspective.

    As a midde school teacher, one of my thousands of non-instructional duties was to give permission slips to my students to take home, get signed, and bring back indicating whether their parents wanted them to receive the shots. As I recall the parents could check either that they wanted their children to get the shot or did not want their daughters to have the shot. No permission slip, no shots. School nurses coordinated program with county nurses.

    Someone had to provide funding for this initiative.

    While it is true that scientists believe that the virus that causes a large number of cervical cancers is passed through sexual contact, that has not been the emphasis here. The emphasis has been that there is one kind of cancer that we have a vaccination for.

    I do think it is telling that Governor Perry did not seem to be aware that this is part of a national public health initiative. Had he known this, he could have used his rebuttal time to educate Representative Bachman.

    I hate that this issue has become politicized because it crosses the boundaries of science and politics.


    • What about the PROOF of inadequate testing of that drug, and the DEATHS, from it…last I’d read it was near 80. While many more may have gotten that poison, ONE death is ONE TO MANY!!! Besides, WHY are people so quick to think that what the big drug companies are pushing are such wonder drugs that we NEED??? They SAY this is a drug to STOP one form of cancer…REALLY??? How come this hasn’t happened YEARS BEFORE. I am almost 60 and have heard ALL MY LIFE about the “searching for a cure for cancer” spiel. Funny how NOW the ONE CANCER that is TRANSMISSABLE via sex, has been FOUND AND CURED??? What about the MORE COMMONLY KNOWN cancers that have been around for CENTURIES?? WHY, with ALL of the “studies” that are ongoing, WHY hasn’t there been a cure for one of those FIRST???? You did what you felt was right, but there is no way that ANYONE should EVER just “go along” with ANY program of ANY DRUG for themselves or their children, when the lack of study and testing is as little and as poorly done as was for guardasil. There is NO cancer in any of my family for many generations and going on THAT I will NEVER put ANY drug into my body “just because”, nor would I subject my child or grandchild to be their test subject without YEARS of studies to PROVE it’s value and need.


  15. Carrol Abel
    National Equine Policy

    From: “Kevin Good”
    Subject: RE: Wildlife Questions
    Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2011 11:28:05 -0500
    Your question was forwarded to me for response.
    Feral burros occur in only one state park at this time. Texas State Park policy is to control all non-native and feral animals that may occur in all parks in order to preserve the natural resources of the park system. This policy extends to animals such as feral hogs, aoudad sheep that occur in many parks, as well as burros at Big Bend Ranch State Park. The number of resident burros is variable, as the park is not fenced. Because burros cause damage to the ecosystem of the park that is home to many species of rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal species, burros and other feral animals are subject to live trapping and relocation or lethal control by shooting. Because more than two years of efforts by rescue groups failed to remove a single animal, burros are removed by shooting when staff can do so in a safe and humane manner.

    Kevin Good
    State Parks Division


    • “place expletive here”……that statement has so many holes in it, I could drive a M-1 Abrahms tank through it! Jerk!

      Why can’t the folks/rescue that did the Hawaiian burro removal (they are based in CA and TX) help with this? Not one burro removed by a rescue? WTH did they use?

      I’m confused and the “feral” thing infuriates me because I’m still waiting for an explanation of the exclusion of these animals via the 1971 Act language “where found”.


  16. So policy wins–man made/can’t be changed ?? and the burros must die. Death is forever. This is a sad ,sad situation. I am sorry that your state park has such rigid laws. I am glad that this issue has gone “national” (maybe it’s global by now)— what will you do when the big horns over populate–another killfest? and after that–what animal will you exterminate?


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