Roundup Report: Black Mountain Wild Burros, May 2022

The Black Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) encompasses over 1 million acres of land in northwestern Arizona. This vast habitat is home to, according to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates, 3,000 wild burros, making these burros one of the largest and most genetically healthy burro populations in the country. The Black Mountain burros are thought to be of North African Ancestry and are descendants of burros that were brought by miners and prospectors in the early 1860s. The historic town of Oatman Arizona and the famed Oatman burros are located within this HMA.  Despite concerns about the genetic viability of the West’s burro herds, the BLM has set the “appropriate management level” at a mere 382-478 burros on the 1.1 million-acre habitat.

Starting on May 2, 2022, the BLM plans to round up approximately 1,080 wild burros using helicopters to chase them into traps. The agency estimates that the operation will last 2-3 weeks.

One of the BLM’s reasoning for this mass roundup is the claim that burros are contributing to land degradation but the agency continues to ignore new scientific evidence showing that wild burros dig for water in desert environments, boosting the availability of water in desert landscapes across the American West and how the removal of burros from similar ecosystems has caused the extinction of rare fish species.

The lifetime cost according to BLM's own estimates will be approximately $51.8 million to house the approximately 1,080 burros for the remainder of their lives in government-holding corrals.

AWHC will be onsite at this massive operation to hold the BLM accountable.


May 14, 2022: 83 wild burros lost their freedom and according to BLM, 1 jenny was roped inside the wings of the trap since she did not go into the trap with the rest of the group. Jenny was observed by Chad and Dr. Humphrey and they determined she was unharmed by the roping

May 13, 2022: No burros were removed.

May 12, 2022: 55 wild burros lost their freedom. According to BLM 1, jenny was roped inside the wings of the trap since she did not go into the trap with the rest of the group. The jenny was observed by Chad and they determined she was unharmed by the roping. 1 Jack has an old broken leg but does not qualify for euthanasia since it does not have a hopeless prognosis for life.

May 11, 2022: 48 burros were captured. According to BLM, 1 jenny roped inside the wings of the trap since she did not go into the trap with the rest of the group. The jenny was observed by Dr. Humphry and Chad and they determined she was unharmed by the roping.

May 10, 2022: 57 burros were captured. According to BLM, 1 Jenny with an old break on L rear, the animal is in good health and does not need to be euthanized.

May 9, 2022: 97 wild burros were rounded up and removed.

May 8, 2022: Due to high winds, the helicopters did not fly today.

May 7, 2022: 43 wild burros were rounded up today. According to BLM reports, one jenny was roped.

May 6, 2022: 66 wild horses were captured today. According to BLM reports, 2 hotshot/cattle prods were used during loading of semi authorized by IC. 1 foal roped approved by COR. AWHC representatives could not see any of this because of our vantage point and the Cattoors trucks blocked the trap site. 

AWHC field representatives and just one other public observer were on site.

  • 7:15 am: 7 burros were brought in at a face pace from the far away in the east.
  • 7:30 am: The helicopter came into view pushing 2 burros. By 7:45, the helicopter was still attempting to capture them and the burros   began to just walk. He let off for a moment to push another group towards the two — it looked to be a total of 9. By 7:56 am it looks like 8 were captured. Because of our distance, it is unclear if the initial 2 were captured or not but this was one of the harder pushes we’ve seen the helicopters conduct.
  • 9:00 am: 3 burros were being in from the far West.
  • 9:22 am: 3 burros came in again from the far West. It’s concerning that the helicopters are running the burros from long distances and only coming back with small numbers. If they wanted to do this in a more humane way, they would stop the helicopters for the day and move the trap site.
  • At 10:00 a helicopter could be heard in the distance, at 10:13 he was now visible. though he had been gone for nearly 50 minutes after the last run. He was stampeding 3 burros. Only two were initially captured, and then the pilot went back out for the single burro. He chased the single burro back and forth for a while until three wranglers on horseback eventually roped him.
  • At 11:32 am 6 burros were visible in the far distance from though the helicopter had been out of sight flying for at least a half hour.  86 degrees.
  • 12:43 pm the helicopter pushed 6 burros and captured 4.

Day concluded.

May 5, 2022:  Approximately 65 burros were captured today, though, at the time of this report, the BLM had not updated its report.

AWHC’s field representatives were the only members of the public on site at today’s operation which was located in the same observation area as the days prior with a very limited and obstructed view. 

According to Public Affairs, the “CAWP team” was on-site, but they never came to the observation area, nor did BLM COR. 

The runs:

  • 7:10 am: 5 burros were brought in including a small foal
  • 7:35 am: 9 wild burros were captured
  • 8:50 am: a far away helicopter could be heard in the  distance 8 and another 4
  • 9:45 am: 6 burros including one foal were being brought in from the veryfar west. The helicopter had been gone for approximately an hour. 
  • 9:50 am: 4 burros were brought in.

At 11:15 am, a group of approximately 8 burros of varying ages were being chased by a helicopter and came about 100 yards from the observation area where we were standing. Another 3 brown burros came into the same area for a bit as well. The helicopter, unable to come into our area had to back off. The burros hung out with us for about an hour. We could see at least 1 heavily pregnant Jenny in the group who looked tired with her head hung low. 

  • 11:45 am: BLM captured 7 burros coming from very far easy having been flying for a long time. 
  • 12:05 pm: BLM helicopters brought in 9 including a foal.
  • At 12:50 pm we could see a helicopter moving approximately 6 burros from very far east walking slowly. 
  • 1:30 pm:  7 burros were captured. 

The day concluded. 

May 4, 2022: 28 burros were captured and according to BLM reports, a hotshot was used during loading which was authorized by IC.

We met BLM again at 5:30 am at the same meeting location as the day prior. This also means that we were at the same obstructed observation area. 

The initial runs:

  • 7:45 am: BLM brought in 5 burros
  • 8:25 am: 5 burros were captured. Only for a moment the helicopters went after a single burro before heading back to the sky. 
  • 9:30 am: 8 wild burros were brought in. 
  • 9:50: BLM helicopter brought in a Jenni and a very small foal. 
  • 9:56: Helicopter and wranglers went after a single burro for several minutes before the burro headed up a ridge. 

Today the BLM had a “CAWP team” on-site at the observation area and the trap site. Two BLM officials came to the observation area and did not introduce themselves. It was relayed later that at least one of the gentlemen was a Project Inspector out of Norman, Oklahoma for an Off Range Holding Corral. At the days end an AWHC Rep asked BLM COR if they could tell us who was on the "CAWP team" and were told they would ask (?) but never received any information.

Susan McAlpine who represents “Humane Advocacy” on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board was also in attendance at the observation area, and while not on CAWP team but could be seen talking and walking away while the helicopter was in the air. She did not seem bothered nor interested in what was occurring.

A retired BLM official who was on-site with McAlpine said the CAWP team is headed by Jerrie Bertola and Dr. Al Kane. This was confirmed by BLM COR.

The two members of the “CAWP Team” that were onsite in the observation areas did not even have binoculars. One was sitting down during one of the runs. 

An AWHC field representative asked how the "CAWP team" could be actually evaluating the animal welfare standards without even bringing binoculars, as our team could only barely see what was occurring through a super-telephoto lens and by viewing on our monitors. There was no response. 

After two helicopter runs, the two “CAWP team” members left the observation area. 

Shortly after, a saddled palomino, one of the wranglers' horses, escaped and rushed out of the area. The operation was paused for a long period of time to capture the animal. 

Well before noon, the helicopter could be heard far away in the east. The trap site is located on the western side of this part of the HMA. When the helicopter became visible we could see around 10 or 11 burros being pushed forward. They were visibly tired and most were oscillating between a trot and a walk. Two wranglers eventually surfaced on horseback.

Upon being captured, a burro ran full force into a gate. It was unclear at 12:10 pm whether or not the burro was okay as we only had a very limited view of the pens. It was later confirmed by BLM COR that the burro was okay. 

At 12:10 pm an estimated 4 burros were then brought in. They looked very stressed and there was a lot of commotion coming from the pens. We kept our camera on the pens and noticed one burro thrashing around, spinning and either charging or banging his head against a gate. Because of our limited view, we could not tell if this was aggression or if he was experiencing some sort of issue. Shortly after, the Cattoors brought their trailers in from capturing their loose horse and blocked our view completely. 

By 12:20 the BLM was bringing in another 5 burros and were visibly tired, going between walking and stopping. A Jenni and foal diverted from the group and took to the range. The helicopter eventually abandoned pursuit of the exhausted 3. 

After overhearing that she thought that the pilots were doing a great job, one of the AWHC Reps asked Susan McAlpine how she thought the last three runs went — noting that she had been chatting and sitting down while the helicopters were operating during the last three runs which looked to be particularly hard on the burros. She replied adamantly, “I pay attention when I CAN pay attention”. Our Rep told her that as an Advisory Board member who represents the public and the burros under the position of Humane Advocacy that we wanted to make sure our voices were heard and express our frustration at her seemingly lack of interest in the operation she was there to witness as an Advisory Board member. She acknowledged.

Day was called at 1:15 pm due to wind.

May 3, 2022: 79 burros were captured today.

**Update: According to the BLM reports, 1 orphan will be put into veterinary care at Manzanita Animal Hospital. Once foal is recovered, they will be placed in foster care.

AWHC field representatives were the only members of the public on site to film the roundup and removal of the wild burros of Black Mountain.

There is a USDA veterinarian on site and according to BLM, will be here each day of the operation.

We met the BLM at a mile marker at 5:30 am and drove only a short distance into the HMA before parking. We walked about a 1/4 of a mile to a designated observation area which was located around ~300 yards from the trap-site on flat ground.

At 6:45 am helicopters could be heard in the air but they were not visible until 7:25 am before going to refuel.

The runs:

  • 9 wild burros including a young burro, could be seen at 7:40 being brought in by the helicopter
  • 5 wild burros were captured at 8:00 am

Contractor trailers were moved in front of the corrals after this run, which our reps only had a limited view of initially. We were then unable to see how the burros were fairing following capture.

  • Approximately 10 burros were brought in just before 10am.
  • At 10:05 a group of approximately 6 burros were chased by helicopter with wrangler assistance.
  • At 10:50 am group of three burros were captured and shortly after an estimated 5 were brought in.
  • At 11:15 am 5 more burros we’re captured through a mix of stampede and wranglers on horseback.
  • At 11:30 approximately 12 burros were captured

The helicopter took back out to the HMA and was gone for approximately 2 hours before bringing in the animals. Our observers thought, because of how long the pilot was gone that there was no way that there would be another run today, given the distance and time. But around 1:40 pm the helicopter could be seen bringing in a large group.

  • By 2:20 the cattoors had been chasing a single adult burro for 5-7 minutes from about a mile away from the trapsite before ultimately stopping pursuit.

At one point, a contractor on horseback who was out in the field dismounted and unsaddled his horse who was sweating, giving him a break. The irony was not lost on us.

May 2, 2022: 17 wild burros were captured.