Texas's Tragic Burro Slaughter

The state's parks department should not promote the horrendous treatment of these animals.

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Texas's Big Bend State Park was the scene last fall of a horrendous slaughter by state officials of some 71 wild burros. The state employees were granted the "privilege" of picking off the defenseless creatures by sniper fire, in the name of "cleansing" the park of nonnative species—so as to "protect" native wildlife and water resources.

Last time I checked, burros were not a predatory species, and if they drank so much water they were going to kill everything else in the park, there was still the option of allowing a horse rescue group to come in and save the burros (as the Texas-based Wild Horse Foundation apparently wanted to do).Here's part of the story about last year's slaughter of 71 burros, as told by the Big Bend Sentinel:

Criticism has been lobbed at the agency for the relative quiet in which the policy was carried out at Big Bend Ranch, and there have been questions as to why alternate methods of removal were not attempted."The management of burros is a complicated issue," state Sierra Club Director Ken Kramer said Wednesday. "No one likes to see them killed, and other means of dealing with the animals are preferred whenever practical."As a part of its internal report issued last week, Parks and Wildlife includes a Sierra Club policy from 1981 that endorses the culling and management of feral burros to protect habitat for indigenous animals.Burro management methods must be humane, it states. Helicopters may be necessary for management strategies and "the use of firearms by competent federal agencies or their appointees is a humane method of direct reduction of feral burro populations."

I was forwarded an E-mail distributed by Wild Horse Foundation Executive Director Ray Field, in which he says:

On June 18, 2008, the Executive Director of the Wild Horse Foundation Ray Field met with Texas Parks and Wild Life Director Walt Dabney in Austin on the shooting of Burros in Big Bend State Park last fall and how to help assist to alleviate more issues with the killing. The two discussed that since the Wild Horse Foundation as a non-profit organization can adopt the wild burros into homes can help in this area but the State was not willing to pay for any assistance for the gathering. [ sic]

If the Texas Parks and Wildlife can pay for staff time and ammunition to slaughter burros, why can't those same staff and equipment expenditures be used instead to support the nonprofit Wild Horse Foundation to round up the burros and find them adoptive homes? Tom Harvey, news and information director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, sent me an E-mail that included the following information:

Lethal removal of burros at Big Bend Ranch State Park has been suspended to give live capture efforts an opportunity to work. We are attempting to reduce numbers of aoudad sheep...through public hunting and staff removal.

This is good news for the burros (but terrible news for the sheep, of course). It would be great news if those efforts were put in place permanently and if the department found a rescue group that has the ability to rescue all the burros that would otherwise be slaughtered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials. Only public pressure will push the department to ban all burro slaughter in the future.