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BLM rounds up 350 wild burros
The Bureau of Land Management has captured 350 wild burros from the Cibola-Trigo Herd Management Area north of Yuma as part of an initiative to maintain a healthy population of wild burros on public lands.
The animals will be taken to the BLM Ridgecrest facility in California and be made available for adoption by the public.
There were no injuries to either the burros or the BLM personnel gathering them during the operation, although two people were temporarily detained by law enforcement during the roundup on June 10. The incident happened at a temporary burro holding area on the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge north of Martinez Lake.
“Two individuals were retained and released,” said Lori Cook, spokeswoman for the BLM field office in Yuma. “It is under investigation and charges are pending.”
According to KOLD Tucson News Now, the two who were detained were an independent journalist named Carl Mrozek and a woman in her 70s.
“Two public observers were contacted by BLM law enforcement rangers outside the designated viewing area,” said a BLM spokeswoman from the Arizona state office, who noted that both had been asked to leave the area but had allegedly failed to comply with the instructions from law enforcement officers.
Mrozek was at the site to film a documentary about burros, he said, adding that his view of the roundup had been blocked by a line of vehicles. He saw the elderly woman step around the vehicles to see what was happening.
She was then approached by BLM officials and Mrozek began filming the incident as she was detained, he said. He was approached by BLM officials as well.
According to the BLM, rangers had to make physical contact with both individuals to gain compliance.
“A couple of them seized my arms, it seemed like they wanted to break my arms,” Mrozek told KOLD. “I felt like the burro. I had no rights. I was under the control of the posse of men with machines and guns.”
When Mrozek was taken into custody, he said, his camera was seized.
Both people were placed in air-conditioned law enforcement vehicles, BLM stated. Mrozek said he was placed in the rear of a truck where he remained for over an hour and began to feel the effects of heat sickness.
“I started feeling light-headed and fainted. At one point when I woke up, I had trouble breathing. My circulation was bad. It was 103 degrees outside, we were parked in the sun for over an hour. It was unpleasant, very unpleasant.”
Mrozek asked for an ambulance and was transported to the hospital, where he was given fluids and treated for heat exhaustion.
He claims BLM officials returned his camera to him but without the memory card containing the footage he had taken that day. BLM would not make further comment on the incident as the investigation is ongoing.
The burros were removed from the Cibola-Trigo Herd Management Area to alleviate overpopulation, which is detrimental to the environment, Cook said.
“We have an appropriate management level of 165 animals in our herd management area, and we estimate there were over 700 burros in the area, so we needed to bring down the number.”
The burros eat large quantities of vegetation, which can damage the ecosystem and harm other species in the area such as mule deer, sheep, field mice and lizards, Cook added.
Another reason for the roundup was the burros had been crossing Highway 95 en masse to eat vegetation on the other side, which was a hazard to motorists. Burros were also eating farmers' crops in the area, which posed a health hazard.
The roundup proceeded at the beginning of June despite objections raised by Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and animal rights activists concerned the heat would be detrimental to the health of the animals and those rounding them up.
BLM officials took note of the objections and revised their roundup plans so that the wild burros would only be captured in temperatures under 95 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of the original 105 degrees.
As an additional precaution, a veterinarian was present during the roundup to examine and treat the burros if a problem arose, and BLM worked with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to ensure safety.
“Everything was fine,” Cook said. “We had no problems with any injuries. There were no safety concerns with either the personnel or the burros. We reached our goal and we consider that a success, especially since no one was hurt. That is the most important thing.”
The BLM will offer the burros to qualified adopters who must demonstrate the ability to provide humane care for the animals for a year.
To qualify, an adopter must be at least 18 years old, have approved facilities where they will keep the animal and provide safe transportation to the facilities.
For more information and adoption qualifications, call 1-866-468-7826 or visit www.blm.gov/az.