The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been shooting feral burros in Big Bend Ranch State Park in an effort to reduce their populations, as a way of mitigating impacts on the desert park’s water sources, archaeological sites, and native plants. Agency personnel have killed about 130 burros since 2007.
We’ve urged an end to the state-sponsored killing and the implementation of more humane methods of managing the burros’ numbers. Yesterday, after extensive and constructive discussions and a visit to the park with the agency, we got a burst of great news: the agency is suspending the policy allowing the animals to be killed. The HSUS has offered to develop a nonlethal plan to manage the animals, and the first step in that process is partnering with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to conduct an aerial survey this spring to collect data, with the department offering financial support.
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
A burro at Black Beauty Ranch.
Developing nonlethal approaches for wildlife and partnering with governmental agencies is not new to The HSUS or our sister organization, The Fund for Animals. Our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, which we operate with the Fund for Animals in east Texas, was created in the late 1970s as a placement site for hundreds of burros slated for killing at Grand Canyon National Park. We airlifted the burros from this treacherous terrain and prevented the bloodshed, and out of that rescue operation came Black Beauty Ranch, which now houses dozens of different species. The last of these surviving burros, named Friendly, passed away just last year.
Also last year, I wrote about our dramatic efforts in Hawaii to rescue, neuter, and rehome more than 300 burros to prevent their possible killing. We flew 120 burros to a California sanctuary so they could live in peace and safety. (Less than 100 donkeys remain in the wild on the island and are being managed humanely).
Officials estimate that there may be as many as 300 burros remaining at Big Bend Ranch, but no one really knows for sure. That’s why The HSUS is working with the TPWD to conduct a scientific, infrared aerial survey of the burro population to determine how many are living there. That data will be used to develop a nonlethal proposal for managing the existing burro population at Big Bend Ranch State Park, which The HSUS will submit to the department for consideration.
These animals are at the park through no fault of their own. We humans put them there, and it’s up to us to handle any conflicts that now arise in the most merciful way. We now have a path forward, thanks to the leadership of TPWD for agreeing to look at a new way of handling the situation and TO all of you who demanded a better outcome for the burros.