Over 40 wild burros killed Illegally along I-15 corridor
By JIM MATTHEWS
Scouting for quail, chukar, and doves for the upcoming hunting seasons, I came across a gruesome sight at Halloran Spring just off Interstate 15 just east of Baker. Six dead burros were scattered around the area near the spring. Meanwhile, a herd of another eight live burros were at the spring looking for a drink on that hot August day.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, these six dead burros were just a fraction of the more than 40 burros that have been found shot and left to rot in the desert in this part of the desert. Called the Clark Mountain Herd, these burros range from Halloran Spring to Primm, Nevada, along the Interstate 15 corridor, most north of the Interstate.
The BLM announced the reward for information leading to the capture of those who have been killing the sheep has been increased to $18,500 -- $10,000 from the BLM, and the remaining $8,500 from three wild burro and horse advocacy groups, the American Wild Horse Campaign, Return to Freedom, and The Cloud Foundation.
Since May, a total of 42 wild burro carcasses with gunshot wounds have been found along the Interstate 15 corridor from Halloran Spring to Primm in various states of decomposition. Bureau of Land Management law enforcement is leading the investigation into the illegal killings, in coordination with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Wild horses and burros are an iconic part of the American West, and part of our national heritage,” said William Perry Pendley, the BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Program. “We will pursue every lead until we’ve arrested and prosecuted those responsible for these cruel, savage deaths, and we welcome the public’s help to bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice.”
"America’s public lands belong to all of us. These cruel and hostile acts against federally protected animals strike at the heart of everyone working so hard for their protection – and for humane, non-lethal solutions to management concerns,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. “It’s our plan to raise this reward in hopes that someone will step forward with information that will help law enforcement end these senseless killings.”
While non-native burros have significant negative impacts on desert habitats, they have been protected by federal law since 1971 when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and makes it a federal offense to kill a burro. Unfortunately, the fine for violating this act is only $2,000 (per animal) with up to one-year of jail time for each count.
The BLM has come under fire for decades from native wildlife advocates because the agency is not aggressive enough in wild burro capture and adoption efforts. As a result the burro populations are excessive across most of their range in the West, causing range damage, competing with native wildlife, and causing considerable damage to desert springs, to the point of making them unusable. The burros have been especially damaging to desert sheep herds and recovery. The BLM repeatedly points out that capture, storage and feed, and adoption efforts are time consuming and expensive, and the allotted budget for this effort is well below what is needed to effectively control burro numbers.
That doesn’t mean that the wholesale slaughter of burros is justified, even if it weren’t illegal. The burros have all been shot and left to die and rot, mostly around desert water sources in this part of the desert, and it is likely the perpetrator or perpetrators were seen by a number of people since many of the burros were killed very near Interstate 15.
Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to call the WeTip hotline at 800-78CRIME (800-782-7463) or visit http://www.wetip.com. Callers may remain anonymous and still be eligible for a reward for information leading to the arrest(s) and conviction(s) of any person or persons responsible for the deaths of these protected animals. More information on the rewards offered by American Wild Horse Campaign, Return to Freedom and The Cloud Foundation can be found on the organizations’ respective websites.
Visitors to this part of the desert should also keep their eyes and ears open and stay on the alert for more burro shootings. Law enforcement personal advise people not to approach anyone they see committing these crimes, but to report description of the people and vehicles immediately to the WeTip line.
Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.