Utah is home to the Sinbad herd management area (HMA ) consisting of close to 100,000 acres. It’s covered with a variety of trees and grasses with water available from springs, reservoirs and the San Rafael River.
The HMA is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This HMA is home to a burro population of just over 328 animals. However, the BLM has determined that the Appropriate Management Level (AML) for these burros should be between 50 and 70.
The BLM targeted a removal of about 300 burros with a plan to possibly release 20 jennies who would be given GonaCon, which has not been tested as a fertility control vaccination for wild burros.
The BLM’s claim for this mass removal was to prevent unnecessary degradation of the public lands. Meanwhile the BLM permits hundreds of privately-owned cow/calf pairs to graze inside and outside the HMA during each year.
The Roundup Results
The BLM’s contractor struggled to capture the 153 burros it did, which begs the question of whether the population of over 300 burros was overestimated.
Wild burros don’t respond to being chased by helicopters in the way that wild horses do. Wild burros usually freeze or scatter while wild horses tend to stay in their bands while being chased into the trap. During this roundup, about 40 burros who did not respond to the helicopter ended up being roped by the wranglers on horseback with some horrendous results.
Over the first three days, the helicopters captured large numbers of burros (over 120) including young foals and heavily pregnant jennies.
Observers saw at least two burros go down after being roped.
Tragically, a young jack died near the end of the roundup. A report on the roundup by the BLM indicated: a “7 year-old male sustained a spinal cord injury after falling into a 5-foot drainage ditch he was trying to jump during gather operations.” A BLM official arrived and shot him about 30 minutes later.
Because the contractor didn’t capture the 300+ burros targeted for removal, bait or water trapping will begin on the Sinbad HMA in late summer or fall.
This roundup used excessive and reckless roping as well as reports of captured burros on trailers for hours with no water which are violations of the BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP).
In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences’ report on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program stated that wild burro populations were low and fragmented. It recommended “no removals” in order to prevent inbreeding and to maintain genetic viability.