No, nobody’s going to hunt Oatman burros

A burro in Oatman, Arizona

A few media outlets reported a Mohave County, Arizona, official proposed hunting for wild burros to reduce overpopulation in the region.

Naturally, this got Route 66 folks and animal-rights activists riled up, because that would mean the Route 66 town of Oatman, Arizona, would see its beloved wild burros in the cross hairs.

Mojave County supervisor Steve Moss said he wasn’t serious and instead wanted to shock the Bureau of Land Management into doing something about burro overpopulation. The county board voted 4-1 Tuesday to table Moss’ idea.

The Kingman Daily Miner reported:

Moss proposed a resolution calling upon the BLM to reduce the burro population to less than 817 in the next year, then corrected the number Tuesday to less than 478.

According to the BLM, there are an estimated 1,400 to 1,800 burros in the Black Mountain management area.

“It’s become a problem in that the BLM has not adequately maintained the herd and it’s causing problems with the ecosystem,” Moss said.

The burro population has increased over time and pushed out habitat indigenous to the desert, such as quail and bighorn sheep, he added.

“They’re all competing for the same resources. They all need water and they [burros] foul the pool,” he said. […]

Supervisor Gary Watson said the burro population will double to 3,600 in the next four to five years.

“You’ll see wild horses and many other animals dying from starvation and dehydration,” Watson said. “It is a crisis.”

The burros are descendants of burros used in the Black Mountain gold mines a century ago. When the mines closed, the workers simply turned the animals loose. The Oatman burros roam the streets of the Route 66 town looking for handouts during the day, then wander into the nearby mountains at night to graze on the foliage. The burros have been tourist draws in Oatman for decades.

One problem: Moss’ proposal would run afoul of federal law, as this Daily Miner outdoors writer pointed out. The burros are protected by federal statute enacted more than 40 years ago.

One BLM option is to capture the burros and have them adopted elsewhere. Trouble is, the agency already has an excess of burros and not enough people who want them.

Another option is to sterilize the burros in the area to control their populations — a complicated and expensive proposition.

As usual, the sticking point is money — the lack of it.

Moss said he didn’t really want to start hunting down burros.

“No one is advocating that we go out and shoot the burros, but that is a potential solution,” Moss said. “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.”

If Moss wasn’t really advocating the shooting of wild burros, he shouldn’t officially propose it. This sort of disingenuous “shock” legislation sticks in my craw, much like the dishonest phenomenon called “strategic voting.” To propose something you can’t endorse is akin to lying, and an elected official shouldn’t do it.

(Image of one of the Oatman burros by Ethan Kan via Flickr)

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