The wild burro was first introduced into the Desert Southwest by Spaniards in the 1500s. Wild burros have long ears, a short mane and reach a height of up to 5 feet at the shoulders. They vary in color from black to brown to gray.
Originally from Africa (where they were called the wild ass) these pack animals were prized for their hardiness in arid country. They are sure-footed, can locate food in barren terrain and can carry heavy burdens for days through hot, dry environments.
There are tens of thousands of free-roaming wild burros throughout the deserts of the Southwest. Many live on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management; however, many others are unmanaged. In most cases, burros in national parks are treated as pests, and if the park service can’t get funding to take care of the burros, they’re sometimes killed.
Burros are not indigenous to North America, and with little predation to keep their numbers in check, they can easily overpopulate and damage fragile desert environments where they live. Keeping the population in balance means we need to remove some animals. This is done through bait and water trapping, which is a low-stress way to capture them and makes the transition to domestic life much easier. Then we give the burros microchips, test them for diseases, and enroll them into our adoption training program.