Burro options focus of Monday meeting

Mohave County trying to push BLM on overpopulation issue

Wild burros stand in the desert near Oatman Road in February 2011. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)

Wild burros stand in the desert near Oatman Road in February 2011. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)

KINGMAN - The Mohave County Board of Supervisors will hold a workshop at 10 a.m. Monday to discuss the overpopulation of burros in the Black Mountains management area.

The workshop takes place at the County Administrative Building, 700 W. Beale St., and anyone wishing to speak at the workshop must sign in prior to the call to order.

Pat Barber of the Arizona Game and Fish Department will give a presentation on the burros, and public comment will follow comments from the Board of Supervisors. A representative from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is also anticipated to attend.

County supervisors entertained a proposal in January to seek legislative authority for Arizona Game and Fish to issue hunting licenses for the burros, a hardball tactic to get the BLM to control the population in accordance with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

Mohave County's burro population is estimated at 1,800, about four times the recommended limit of 478.

Outdoor groups claim the burros, which are not indigenous to the area and were introduced by miners in the 1800s, have disrupted the desert's fragile ecosystem, munching on plants and depriving other animals of food and water sources.

Supervisor Steve Moss, who placed the item on the board's Jan. 19 agenda, said nobody ever had any intention of actually shooting the lovable creatures that have become a tourist attraction in Oatman and along Route 66.

The BLM is not adequately maintaining the herd, and it's causing problems with the ecosystem, he said.

"No one is advocating that we go out and shoot the burros, but that is a potential solution," Moss said at the meeting in which the board tabled the item by a 4-1 vote. "We need legislation for the BLM to work with local governments. We are not partners in this. We are being dictated, or more importantly, we are being ignored."

His proposal drew animal activists from Phoenix, Tempe and the Salt River Wild Horse Group who spoke about the value of the burros and their rightful place in the desert.

Supervisors offered alternative solutions such as contraception and sterilization, capture and adoption, though they noted that some 30,000 wild horses and burros are currently being held by the BLM in adoption pens at taxpayers' expense. Off-range holding costs amounted to more than $49 million in 2015, according to the BLM.