Havasu News-Herald: BLM should trade in burro roundups for fertility control

March 22, 2015 - If wild horses are emblematic of the American West, the same should be said of the wild burros that inhabit the Colorado River corridor.

Those stubborn donkeys, despite efforts to control their populations over the years, are determined to stay here. And many residents wouldn't have it any other way.

How the government manages the animals is again the subject of upcoming meetings. Gatherings in Bullhead City and Kingman on April 1 and 2 will focus on the Bureau of Land Management's practices when it comes to population control of burros living in an 80-mile area just north of Lake Havasu City.

Nobody’s pretending the burros are native species -- they're the descendents of animals used in Mohave County’s mines decades ago.

But they're a throwback to a nostalgic period of Arizona's past, the days of the Wild West, and deserve some protections simply for their role as living history.

In places like Oatman, they’re even a pretty big tourist attraction. Bottom line? We like them here.

The BLM has struggled over the years to keep the proliferating population of pack animals under control. It's a tough balance to achieve, and one that's getting tougher — the burros, and more often their wild horse cousins, are blamed for trampling fragile drought-stricken grasslands intended for livestock.

Given the increasingly dry conditions of the American West, that conflict is only likely to increase.

The BLM has held regular roundups for both burros and horses —100 burros were recently removed from the Parker area — but those efforts are often met with criticism as the agency doesn't have a great plan for the animals once they’re in captivity.

We’ve said it before — the BLM's methods for dealing with the country’s wild equines are unsustainable.

In fact, a few years ago a study showed the agency’s roundup efforts may actually encourage increased breeding in wild horse populations.

Even though certain contraceptives for wild horses have come under recent scrutiny in Nevada, the agency ought to focus all of its efforts on fertility control while allowing enough reproduction within existing herds to ensure the wild burros are with us for generations to come.

Originally published in the Havasu News-Herald, March 22, 2015.

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