Horse News

Donkey-Powered Protesters Marched on Texas Capitol

Story by  of StateImpact a reporting project of local media and npr

Over 1000,000 Petitions Delivered to Stop the Wild Burro Killings

Marjorie Farabee and Abby attempt to deliver petitions to Rick Perry's Office

Words matter in life. And the case of the the wild donkeys of West Texas is no exception.

If you call them “Wild Burros” you could be inclined to see them as scrappy survivors, emblems of the Old West. If you call them “Feral Donkeys,” well, then they sound like pests that need to be exterminated.

In Texas, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

If you were near the State Capitol Wednesday, you got a first-hand glimpse of the fight heating up between the two camps. Six donkeys (including “Miss Abby,” a Donkey with her own blog), and about a dozen protesters were there to deliver a message to the Texas Governor: “Stop killing the wild burros of Texas.”

For years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has had a policy of killing the burros. The donkeys were first introduced by early Spanish colonists in the 1600s. Today, the state views them as a dangerous invasive species, responsible for habitat destruction and the fouling of West Texas water sources (TPWD even has a webpage devoted to burro droppings found near water wells).

The Donkeys Were Here First

The riders, many of them from West Texas where burros are more common, see it differently.

“The burros have been there longer than Texas Parks and Wildlife,” says Rachel Waller Rondeaux from Alpine. She is a member of Red Horse Nation, a group devoted to wild horse protection. “I mean I think [Parks and Wildlife] is invasive, personally,”

Waller Rondeaux and others argue that the burros have lived in relative harmony with the Texas landscape since colonial times. They say the killing of burros has increased since a state program got underway to re-introduce longhorn sheep to West Texas. The state, they argue, wants to make money off the sheep hunting licenses.

“It’s all for the money,” says Waller Rondeaux.

That’s a charge Parks and Wildlife denies. Kevin Good, special assistant to the director of state parks, says the feral and exotic animal removal program has been in place since the early 1990s. If anything’s changed since then, he said, it’s been the population of wild donkeys.

“Due to the droughts and the down economy, people just can’t afford to take care of their animals anymore and they’ve turned them loose,” says Good.

“If you’ve got an animal like a burro that’s eating grass,” he says, “than obviously that’s grass that’s not available for an animal like a rabbit. And so if your rabbit population declines, that means less food for red tail hawks for instance.”

Cuter than Feral Hogs

But back at the state capitol, where visitors Josie Sinomano and her friends took turns petting one of the donkeys, the PR challenge of defending the state’s program came into full focus.

“[The donkey] is adorable!” said Sinomano. ” I like the way it was eating the mints and stuff. It’s cute.”

“Obviously some animals are more attractive to humans than others, but we try to separate cuteness from resource management.”– Kevin Good, Texas Parks & Wildlife

When asked about the PR challenge of killing creatures that many find “adorable,” Good conceded that it’s a challenge.

“Obviously some animals are more attractive to humans than others,” he said “but we try to separate cuteness from resource management. That’s not a good science-based way to run a parks system.”

But Good said the department is open to changing its policy if a third party created a burro sanctuary in West Texas. Many of the protesters would prefer the donkeys continue to roam free, but they seemed open to the idea.

“That is a compromise, but at least they’re alive,” said Gayle-Suzanne Barron.

The state is in talks with the Humane Society about a potential burro sanctuary. But there is one serious stumbling block: Money. Texas Parks and Wildlife says the sanctuary would need to be funded by outside source.

19 replies »

  1. We were harassed from the moment we arrived in the Capitol by the State Preservation Board who has been quietly, and secretly moving public land to their control. This agency has too much control over what gets heard in Austin, and what does not. They can literally shut down authorized events, just because they want to, and they tried very hard in our case. They effectively kept me the founder and coordinator of the petition delivery, our prepared handouts, and my prepared statements from being seen by the public. We were denied access at the last minute, to our seat of government. Miss Abby will write about this today, and discuss our plans for a protest. The petition delivery which I was forced to hand over to volunteers to deliver was the beginning of our presence in Austin. Next, we will be protesting, and I know Red Horse Nation and Lifesavers will be there again, supporting our sweet burros. Smoke the Iraqi donkey will come too, if given proper notice, along with wounded warriors. WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY. Please read this excellent article by our friend Christopher Gill. And, later today Miss Abby will have her views written up on her blog as well.


  2. From the moment we arrived the State Preservation Board tried to deny our right to be heard in our seat of government. This agency has the power to deny access to our public officials and is up for a sunset review in March. All should comment on this Agency’s rude treatment. We have learned too that the State Preservation Board has been quietly moving land out of our public land holdings and into their control. More eyes need to be on this dishonest, and powerful agency that has the right to shut down the democratic process in the seat of our government.

    The State Preservation Board at the last moment denied entry to founder Marjorie Farabee’s wagon which contained all the literature she intended to hand out, and the petitions. She was forced to hand those precious signatures weighing over 50lbs to volunteers to deliver, which effectively kept her from making her prepared statements to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, and kept her from making a statement to the press waiting outside.

    This was the petition delivery, and we learned from it. We are now planning our protest which we hope will be attended by all who care about the burro’s plight. Red Horse Nation and Lifesavers will be there again in solidarity with the burro. Smoke the Iraqi donkey will be there along with Wounded Warriors. WE WILL NOT GO AWAY.

    Please look at this well written and researched article by our friend Christopher Gill Also, Miss Abby will be writing about how we were treated today, so tune in later at for a word from a very wise donkey.


  3. Perry & Co. was voted in and can be voted out for their dismal record when it comes to protecting the vulnerable: innocent animals, children in public schools, dedicated teachers, the disabled, the poor, the elderly, the environment, people’s rights and so on


  4. I think in many cases we have left some of these governmental groups to just do what ever they please. They find people to make stupid comparison for not letting the burros live their lives out on the range. These people have no morals. If I saw the Big Horn Sheep roll in, I surely would get some videos of this. I don’t know who is worse, the BLM or your govenmental agency. It appears to me that these are just arbitrary decisions without any of the publics input. I would send this story to Chris Cuomo at ABC News in New York because all these killings are done at the tax payers expense. I would say that tax payer funds should be available to hire a legal defense for the burros
    since the state parks are also using tax payer funds. Keep up the good work, if I am in Texas in the near future, I certainly will have your back. Excellent videos ..send to Chris and see what happens..he is probably one of the good guys.


    • No, but we do have a list of political contributors, and it is not a pretty list. Dan Friedkin who is now chair of TPW Commission gave $715,000. to Perry’s campaign. And, all of the other members of the commission are huge contributors too.

      You have made a good point about administrative costs, and it is something they do not want known. We put in a FOIA request asking those questions, and questions about the actual break down of costs associated with the bighorn program and they wanted $20,000. to honor the request.


    • Thank you, Simone. It has been a long road since you first met me and I begged for help, hasn’t it? We are making the burros known now, anyway. But, there are other herds of burros in big trouble too. To make things happen, requires focus and concentrated effort on one group. The Merrietta burros are in real danger and need a grassroots group to form around their survival. The same with all the others.

      Our wild hearts are in such peril all over the United States, that if we don’t put our arms around each group we will lose them all. I mean this with all of my heart. Our efforts with these burros has been pulled from every bit of strength that I have in my body. It takes that much energy and time, to stave off these madmen. They are crafty, and they make busy work to keep people from making headway. This is why one group, one herd works.


  5. Miss Abby, you need to contact Senator Leahy about that FOIA…$20,000?! That is
    a VERY INTERESTING piece of information:

    Senator Leahy should be contacted about the FOIAs:“Congress was particularly concerned that agencies were using search and copying costs to prevent critical monitoring of their activities:

    “Indeed, experience suggests that agencies are most resistant to granting fee waivers when they suspect that the information sought may cast them in a less than flattering light or may lead to proposals to reform their practices. Yet that is precisely the type of information which the FOIA is supposed to disclose, and agencies should not be allowed to use fees as an offensive weapon against requesters seeking access to Government information….”
    132 Cong. Rec. S14298 (Sen. Leahy).”


    Although an effort was made, we still could see nothing of the burros actually being chased with helicopter-assisted roping. I was, however, able to see them returning with the captured burros and hollow-backed horses

    The “called in his last favor” comment rankled. BLM is the arm of the American government tasked to “protect and manage” a much loved American treasure, our wild horses and burros. As Americans, our Constitution is framed as a government by the people and for the people, and it assures us of the permanent right to hold our government, which is to serve the people. to account for how it spends our tax dollars, and to be visible and open in what it does.


  7. THIS IS IMPORTANT!! PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO WATCH THIS. Alan Savory’s plans will bridge the gap between cattle ranchers and our wild herds. THEN, we can stand united to fight off the real enemies coming our way, which are extraction companies. Soon, our water will be gone, and so will all the resources we hold dear, which sustain all living things.


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