July 30, 2009

Wild donkeys to be removed from area

Burros will be relocated over 100 miles away

Desert Dispatch

Greg Cook lassos a baby burro during a round-up in Panamint Valley at Fort Irwin in 2005. Over 60 burros were removed during that gathering, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

FORT IRWIN • Up to 100 burros — wild donkeys — at Fort Irwin and areas bordering Death Valley National Park will soon be rounded up and relocated over 100 miles away.


Fort Irwin officials have said that burros roaming outside designated areas are causing a nuisance and have contracted with the Bureau of Land Management to remove the animals.

According to Anthony Chavez, BLM range land management specialist, natural springs at Fort Irwin have attracted large numbers of burros.

“When you only have one water source...where else are they going to go? They’re going to concentrate there and have some impact,” Chavez said, noting that other animals, like desert tortoises have to share the area and have been negatively impacted. Fort Irwin shares the same space as the desert tortoise, which has been listed as a threatened species since 1992.

According to Clarence Everly, natural resources program manager at Fort Irwin, burros will even show up during soldier training.

Burros “roam through live fire training areas on the installation,” Everly wrote in an e-mail. Training halts each time this happens, he noted.

“These burros pretty much roam freely between Fort Irwin and public land,” Chavez said.

Fort officials have contracted with the BLM to remove up to 40 donkeys from around the military base, including areas near the Goldstone Deep Space Network Complex, starting in late August, according to Alex Neibergs, wild horse and burros specialist for the BLM. The burros’ new home, although temporary, will be Ridgecrest, which is about 150 miles northwest of Barstow. Another 40 to 60 burros will be trapped at Owl Hole Springs near Death Valley.

The burros will be kept at the BLM’s holding facility in Ridgecrest, where they will then be put up for adoption.

This isn’t the first time that burros have been removed from the fort. In 2004, 17 burros were captured and removed, according to Neibergs. In 2005, 66 were removed.

Neibergs said the four-legged, 400 lbs. creatures are relatively easy to domesticate and are often used as pets or guard animals for livestock.

“They go quick. It’s hard for us to keep burros,” said Chavez.

The BLM is required to take public comments when an animal gathering requires helicopters or motorized vehicles, according to Spokesman David Briery. The Barstow Field Office has tentatively set a public hearing for late August, said Briery.