Proposal encourages adoption of non-native, feral burros to reduce wildlife impacts
Phoenix, AZ -(AmmoLand.com)- In an effort to protect Arizona’s native wildlife, critical habitat and public safety, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is collaborating with U.S. Sen. John McCain’s Office, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Arizona State Office, state agencies and local governments on a plan to effectively manage the state’s overpopulation of feral burros.
During a meeting in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Sen. McCain agreed that the overpopulation of burros is having a negative impact on the state. He was encouraged that the BLM agreed to consider an Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) proposal that supports the BLM’s efforts to address burro overpopulation by emphasizing adoptions.
“I am very pleased … that the Bureau of Land Management has agreed to review the Department’s proposal, which calls for an Arizona partnership between state agencies and BLM to more effectively manage the overpopulation of wild burros,” McCain said in a statement following the meeting. He further noted that the non-native, feral burros “are threatening public safety and damaging property in communities across our state.”
Under the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, the state should have no more than 1,316 burros within its borders. Yet surveys estimate the population at 4,183 – more than 217 percent above the appropriate management levels established by Congress and administered by the BLM.
The AZGFD-led proposal supports forming a coalition of agencies, including the BLM’s Arizona State Office, AZGFD, Arizona Department of Agriculture, Arizona Department of Corrections, Arizona State Land Department, Arizona Department of Transportation and Mohave, La Paz and Yuma counties. The proposal expands the use of the BLM’s Wild Horse Inmate Program to include burros at the Arizona state prison in Florence and bolsters the BLM’s adoption efforts.
“It’s clear to all parties that the current incarnation of the federal government’s Wild Horse and Burro program is no longer effective and must be re-evaluated,” said Arizona Game and Fish Commission Chairman Kurt Davis. “The impact this non-native, feral animal is having on our native wildlife, our communities and taxpayers is only escalating and no longer can be shoved aside by the BLM. We look forward to the BLM embracing the Game and Fish proposal and working with our fellow state agencies, impacted counties and Sen. John McCain in pursuing a long-term plan to further limit the ecological and economic damage by feral burros.”
The Wild Horse and Burro Program cost taxpayers more than $75 million in fiscal year 2015, according to the BLM. It costs taxpayers $50,000 to house and feed each captured burro over the animal’s lifetime and the agency has more than 1,225 burros awaiting adoption across the Western U.S.
Wild burro populations continue to grow by up to 20 percent per year, further expanding the devastation to fragile desert ecosystems and competition with sensitive wildlife species seeking forage and water. That’s in addition to damaging critical wildlife habitat, crowding existing native species and fouling waterholes relied upon by native bighorn sheep, mule deer, Gambel’s quail and migratory songbirds.
Pledging his support to address this serious issue, McCain said he would also seek a Congressional hearing to address the overpopulation of burros.
“It’s time that Congress held a hearing to examine the rapid growth of burro populations in Arizona. I look forward to continuing this conversation until a sustainable, long-term solution is agreed upon,” McCain said.
About the Arizona Game and Fish Department:
The Arizona Game and Fish Department is the state agency charged with conserving the entire range of wildlife within our borders, from big game such as elk and deer to smaller mammals, reptiles and fish. The Department is one of the nation’s leading proponents of the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,” which relies on sound science, public participation, active habitat management, strict regulation and active law enforcement to sustain wildlife populations.
For more information, visit: www.azgfdportal.az.gov.