Horse News

Military Triggers Roundup of AZ Wild Horses & Burros: Equines Considered Vandals

By Blake Herzog, staff writer as published on The Yuma Sun

“All things federal seem to have their sights set on the destruction of our native wild horses and burros.  From Fort Polk to the Yuma Proving Grounds the U.S. Military has now entered into the war against the equines.  The innocent never seem to catch a break.  Unedited article, below.” ~ R.T.

“…horses have been a big issue. We’re really grateful we’ve been able to actually start removing these ones…”

Captured BLM Wild Burros ~ by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Captured BLM Wild Burros ~ by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The Yuma office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is in the midst of an “emergency gather” of wild burros and horses from desert areas around Yuma County, a small piece of the response officials say is needed to address the threat posed by their overpopulation of the desert.

The problems related to free-roaming burros in the county’s northern reaches have been known for years, and this roundup is being done at the request of Yuma Proving Ground, which has reported an increase in collisions and near-misses between cars and the equine animals on Highway 95 north of Yuma, where rapid breeding allows the herds to grow by 15 percent to 18 percent a year.

“With these rains we’ve had up north it is pulling them away from the highway a little bit” in the past week, said John MacDonald, manager of the BLM’s Yuma field office, but the fear of a person dying from a vehicle-burro collision is always present. On average, about 20 burros a year are hit on the roads around YPG.

The animals have also traipsed into agricultural fields, ruining otherwise productive crops.

“We’ve gotten complaints from Dome Valley and also around Bard about the burros wandering into their fields, especially when they have produce in them. And the burros are contaminating the fields, and they can’t harvest within any obvious signs of burro in their fields,” he said.

Their incursions into the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge to drink from the Colorado River also lead to destruction of riparian vegetation.

John Hall, rangeland management specialist for Yuma’s BLM office, said the current gather so far has netted 34 burros and nearly as many horses, 31.

Both species are more mobile at night during the summer months, so that’s when drivers need to be especially careful. And horses, due to their size, can be even more dangerous to collide with.

“Horses were one of the big drivers for this whole thing,” he said. “Pretty much every year, I have the ability to go out and trap burros, as nuisance animals, but I’ve been working on this for about five years, to actually get the horses to go through. They tend to be a little more controversial with the public.”

They have been particularly damaging to YPG’s Kofa Firing Range on Aberdeen Road, he said. “They’ve been causing a lot of damage to the buildings, they’ll break water pipes, whatever they need to do to get water. That’s why the horses have been a big issue. We’re really grateful we’ve been able to actually start removing these ones and getting them to a safer place,” Hall said.

Most of the burros he’s netted during this drive have been on the larger side, he said. “We only transported, one small female, I think the rest of them have either been mature or yearlings,” he said. The horse roundup has been contracted out, but Hall said he has been handling the burros himself.

The rounding up was set to start again after the Labor Day weekend.

“They get used to going in and out of (the traps) already. What’s happened is we’ve caught the easy ones, we’ve caught the ones that will go in immediately. Now we’re down to the four or five animals that are more difficult to catch,” Hall said. “So it takes a little more time and a lot more patience.”

While horses are a prime motivation for this current roundup, due to sheer numbers burros are the bigger problem. Hall said that at about 150 he has the state’s largest herd of BLM-managed wild horses. They’re within the Cibola-Trigo Herd Management area, which covers most of the area between the Colorado River and Highway 95 from Imperial Dam on the south to Interstate 10 on the north

He estimates there are about 600 to 700 burros roaming through the same million-acre region.

Charlie Bush, owner of the Fisher’s Landing resort at Martinez Lake on the south end of the wildlife refuge, said in the summer, herds of up to 30 burros cross his property a couple of times a day to drink from the river, and he had to pull three dead ones off the road after they were hit by vehicles.

“The last couple of years it’s just been getting worse and worse and worse. And there’s been so many people hitting them on the road, they’re causing traffic accidents. And I believe the BLM is supposed to be taking care of them somewhat,” he said, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything.

“They’re getting onto people’s property and eating their plants. They try to raise a garden but they can’t raise a garden because the things just destroy everything. And they take all the habitat from the deer and the bighorn sheep,” he added.

MacDonald said his office is doing what it can with the funding and authority it has from the federal government, but the effects have been limited. The last large-scale gather was in 2012, bringing in about 300 burros.

Relatively easy to catch, burros who wander into the boxlike traps set for them with hay, water or other enticements before the fourth wall slams shut are taken to the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Holding and Training Facility in Florence, where some will be trained by prison inmates and most will be made available for adoption.

“Nationwide, it’s easier to adopt out burros than wild horses. No. 1, I think is they’re cuter,” MacDonald said. “Two, you can put them in your backyard where you can’t do that with a horse. Around here people can use them for packing or hiking.”

About 12,000 wild burros have been removed from Arizona’s wilderness areas since the act was passed, according to the BLM website.

They are protected from harm under the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which refers to both animals as symbols of the Old West. But the act as amended also says there should be no more than 1,676 wild burros on Arizona’s public lands, while the BLM estimates there are now 5,000.

The population is highest in Mohave County, where the BLM is considering a small pilot program to inject female burros with contraceptives through shooting darts at them. BLM spokesman Lee Tucker said the “fertility management program” could be expanded to Yuma County.

“There are a number of other studies and methods being considered. New research is expected to lead to better management tools. But even if these new tools were available today, it would take some time for populations to come into balance with what the land can support,” he said.

Pat Barber, supervisor of the Region 4 office of the Arizona Game and Fish Department in Yuma, said the federal law gives BLM control of the burros, while his agency must deal with the effects uncontrolled burro breeding has on the habitat for other wildlife and plants.

He said his agency has put a public records request in to BLM about the size of the burro population and the effect it’s having, as it looks for its own solutions to the issue. “From a science perspective we’re pretty certain what’s happening and what’s going to happen with unchecked burro populations, but we’re trying to assess whether we have the data to definitively prove that,” he said.

He said they’ve also been meeting with BLM and other officials from involved agencies around the state to look for ways to address the problem because on the national level, the difficulty of adopting out wild horses is tying up resources that could be going toward adopting out more burros.

“We’re trying to focus more on burros because that’s Arizona’s big issue. And there aren’t that many in holding, they adopt out a lot easier, so we’re looking for a way we can leverage some of the resources in Arizona and work with the state office to fix our own problem,” he said.

More information about the BLM’s burro adoption program in Arizona is available at or by calling the agency’s Arizona State Office at (602) 417-9421.

9 replies »

  1. From what I see from advertised land, there is a lot of open spaces and no one is buying the land cheap or no. Sure they want the land for the Big Horn sheep. Don’t they sell hunting permits to kill the sheep? Hmmm you mean sheep don’t over graze an area?
    And why is it that idiot people can’t slow down in these designated areas? It kills me because we have deer populations in some areas. Do you think people slow down even though there are posted signs? No, they still drive too fast and don’t slow down and end up hitting them. Then they complain. And where do they purpose to put these horses and burros once they are rounded up? In more holding pens to stand unprotected in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter? Again, its not about the animals its all about the money!!


  2. I agree fully with Gail’s perspective on this matter. Why can’t people slow down, be more vigilant in driving through what they must know to be wild areas?! The very mention of ’roundups’ to Americans who are knowledgeable of what is really going on here, usually evokes an uncomfortable gut feeling. Again this all about money – the ‘monied’ usually assuming entitlement and free acquisition to our public lands.


  3. I thought I had heard it all. Feral, trespassers, nuisance…anything but what they are. And I’m sick of these rates of reproduction. It’s all a bunch of bogus malarkey. if you didn’t want the wildlife to eat your plants, plant something that’s not attractive to them OR fence your darned property. Oh wait, that would be too much like right wouldn’t it….. Here lately I’m sick of these whining humans.. They bette find this way out they’ll learn a thighour two.. This is just stupid..


  4. I agree with Gail on the driving… They drive too fast, they don’t watch their surroundings avid then After their irresponsible driving they have the nerve to complain.. They need to just stop being a bunch of Gladys Kravitzs and mind their own business…and show that they are capable of operating a vehicle.. Stop driving like a bunch of idiots..


  5. Horses damaging a firing range???

    Burros causing traffic accidents and desecrating crops – when other wildlife doesn’t?

    Farmers not fencing their fields? In Colorado one only has to ask and CPW will provide electric fences to bear-proof beehives and wooden panels to keep Elk out of baled hay. Why can’t the US Gov’t. provide the firing range with whatever “protections” such already damaged and devalued lands may need?

    What exactly are the wild burro populations in comparison to other area wildlife (deer, bighorn sheep, antelope, rabbits, insects) that are also interested in unfenced crops? Are any other wildlife species being similarly targeted for removals? If not, why not?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wild Burros are not the ONLY wildlife that enter roadways.
    Our Military COULD and SHOULD be helping to PROTECT our nation’s wildlife.
    Our Federally Protected Wild Burros are disappearing fast enough as it is.
    There are better ways to handle this

    White Sands Missile Range officials have issued a warning to employees driving internal roads as well as U.S. Highway 70 to beware of wildlife on the roadways. The warning is a result of a rash of recent accidents involving motor vehicles and wild animals. It should be heeded by all motorists.

    According to Patrick Morrow, a White Sands wildlife biologist, drivers travelling between Las Cruces and Alamogordo have always seen mule deer as they traversed San Augustin Pass. He says drought has brought more deer than normal near the road as they seek water and food. They will jump the fences to get to new growth along the road shoulders.

    All drivers should use extreme caution travelling through the Organ Mountains on U.S. Highway 70 especially at dawn and dusk. This is when the deer are most active. Also, the deer are unpredictable. They may appear to be passively grazing beside the road and suddenly attempt to cross in front of drivers.

    Another possible wildlife hazard on U.S. Highway 70 is oryx on the road. This is an everyday problem for missile range employees driving on internal range roads because the roads are not fenced. However, highway 70 is fenced and oryx only get out on the highway right-of-way occasionally. They are big animals though, weighing about 450 pounds, and cause a lot of damage if struck by a speeding vehicle.
    Missile range employees driving throughout White Sands have many other wildlife hazards to worry about. In fact, some employees feel Range Road 7, the main road between the south and north ends of the range, is one of the most dangerous roads in the state to drive because of the different animals found along it.
    In addition to deer and oryx, employees must worry about horses and pronghorn along stretches of the road.

    The horses are found in the middle of the missile range and often use the roads as they move around the Tularosa Basin. During periods of wet weather the horses have been known to bed down on roads which adds a new angle to this driving hazard.

    In the north end of the missile range employees will often encounter pronghorn along the roadways. The pronghorn tend to roam the north range on a seasonal basis.
    It is very common for employees to encounter all four of these large mammals on a single trip to the north end of White Sands. At night the hazard of encountering these animals is compounded by not being able to see beyond the range or angle of the vehicle´s headlights.

    Drivers are urged to slow down and to always expect the animal to do the unexpected.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ORYX??? What is the reproduction rate of Oryx, I suspect it is alarmingly out of control and must be addressed quickly by roundups, removals, and slaughtering?


  7. I have driven Hwy 95 many times past the Yuma Proving Grounds. The vehicles coming out of the access road are usually exceeding the posted speed limit. It is no wonder they have an issue with anything that gets in their way be it other vehicles legally using the highway or nature’s critters looking for water. What hubris.


  8. We are still a relatively young country
    We still have much to learn
    We had better hurry before it’s too late.
    GOOD leadership is a must…the ground troops are already in place

    The potential of the military in environmental protection: India

    Eustace D’Souza is a retired major-general of the Indian Army. He is an adviser to Earth Ethics Inc., Seminole, Florida, USA; a consultant with the Centre for International Peacebuilding, London; a member of the International Association of Retired Generals and Admirals, London; and a member of the Bombay Natural History Society. He is also a former Secretary-General of the World Wide Fund For Nature-India, a former regional councillor for East Asia and a former member of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.

    In almost all parts of the world today, the military are a recognizable force politically, socially and, to some extent, economically. It is not generally realized, however, that the military have a positive role to play in protecting and restoring our degraded environment. On the contrary, there are many who feel that they are only capable of wanton destruction of wildlife and nature. This is not so, as this article will demonstrate. Indeed, the military have a unique non-violent and productive role to play in protecting the environment, creating security and social patterns founded on cooperation and not on confrontation.

    Traditionally, the role of the military is to defend the integrity of the country’s international borders from external aggression and to ensure internal peace. After the Second World War, two more dimensions were added: international peacekeeping and disaster relief. But it is an accepted fact that today the greatest threat to our blue planet is galloping environmental degradation resulting, inter alia, from the greenhouse effect, the piercing of the ozone layer, deforestation, pollution of water and land resources, acid rain and rampant consumerism. In fact, violent conflicts often stem from environmental conditions under which the more deprived people are condemned to live.

    This article, based on the observations and experiences of the author during 35 years of military service and 19 years of continuing involvement thereafter, suggests how “swords can be turned into ploughshares and rifles to rakes, without blunting the cutting edge of the sword”.
    The military are eminently suited for the important and productive task of protecting the endangered environment and ensuring its regeneration where necessary. The military the world over are well placed to undertake this new role but the Indian military have a number of advantages in this regard:

    • The Indian military are a body of volunteers, all regulars, who serve for a minimum period of 15 years, and thus their involvement is ongoing and ensures continuity.
    • Personnel are recruited nationwide and are therefore aware of the problems to be confronted in various parts of the subcontinent.
    • Recruits, especially for the army, generally come from a rural background and therefore have a better understanding of nature’s web of life.
    • The military have the leadership, motivation, training and discipline to perform this new role effectively.
    • The military have the infrastructure – mobility (even with animal transport and on foot), intercommunications, medical and engineering skills – necessary for such work.
    • The armed forces are looked on with respect in the country and therefore make valuable exemplars.
    • Each year, nearly 50 000 soldiers and airmen retire from the armed services. This large number of trained and disciplined personnel forms a valuable pool of human resources for environmental duties (see section on Eco Territorial Army Battalions).

    Prior to the Second World War the Indian Army encouraged shikar (game shooting) by infantry personnel as a way to develop stalking and shooting skills, although this activity was controlled by game laws. During the war, however, service weapons and ammunition were readily available and wildlife protection rules could not be strictly enforced. This led to large-scale illegal hunting. Moreover, the felling of trees for defence works and the construction of new railway lines took their toll on India’s forest wealth. After the end of the war, this destruction of wildlife and habitat by the military continued for some years, especially in central India.

    When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru became Prime Minister in 1947, his love for wildlife and nature caused the brakes to be applied, albeit gently, to illegal hunting and cutting of trees. But the transition was slow. When Indira Gandhi became prime minister in 1966, the brakes were applied with force. The Indian Wildlife Act was introduced and applied strenuously. An army colonel faced a court martial for shooting a barking deer in the forests of central India.

    From the foregoing it is obvious that the military do have an important role to play in protecting the earth and its natural resources. They are geared to do so by virtue of their organizational structure, training, leadership, motivation, technical skills, mobility and intercommunications. This potential is exemplified by the work of the Indian military in such fields as forestation, the use of renewable sources of energy, anti-pollution measures, population control and creating awareness and economy in the use of resources, especially energy and water. All these nation-building and productive activities by the military are possible in the changed world scenario. If it is possible to collate and disseminate information on the tasks that the military the world over are doing in this field, the results will be magnified. And to those cynics who consider such activities outside the scope of the military, if proof is needed at all, the Indian military have been able to achieve these results notwithstanding their manifold commitments and without blunting the cutting edge of the sword.


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