June 7, 2012 at 3:50 AM MST - Updated June 27 at 4:39 AM
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now)
Despite protests from animal advocates and even a U.S. Congressman, the Bureau of Land Management started its burro roundup in southern Arizona on Wednesday.
The roundup is taking place in the Cibola Trigo Herd Management area which is about 20 miles outside of Yuma.
BLM officials said the most recent survey showed there were more than 700 wild burro in that area, they hoped to round up about 350 of them.
Rep. Raul Grijalva and animal advocates have criticized the BLM for not postponing the roundup due to extremely hot temperatures in the desert.
Many veterinarians are speaking out saying the roundup activity should stop at 90 degrees because of possible dehydration and other dangers.
BLM officials have said they start the operation early in the morning when temperatures are much cooler, and they are also saying that workers will cease the operation if temperatures rise above 95 degrees.
A safety officer will monitor the temperature on an hourly basis. There will also be a veterinarian on site, according to a BLM spokesperson.
Animal advocate Julianne French says the roundup is extremely inhumane and causes the burro undue stress and suffering.
She showed us a You Tube clip shot by Eagle Eye Media showing helicopters chasing burros in the desert. At one point you can see the helicopter get so close to the burro that it knocks him down. The animal gets back up and appears to be disoriented.
BLM officials have said they will stop operations if animals appear to be stressed.
They said the roundup was necessary to prevent over-grazing in the area.
Animal advocates say BLM officials can try to come up with better ways to do that, than push burros out of their natural habitat.
BLM officials say the burros will be put up for adoption after they are vaccinated and tagged.
Many animal advocates worry about these adoptions, and they wonder if the burros might fall into the wrong hands.
"People in other countries like to eat horse meat, they might be adopting them for slaughter," said French.
According to the BLM website: "These excess animals are offered for adoption to qualified individuals through the BLM's wild horse and burro adoption program. After properly caring for an animal for one year, the adopter is eligible to receive title, or ownership, from the Federal government. While the challenge of adopting animals is greater than ever, the program remains popular. The BLM has placed more than 225,000 wild horses and burros into private ownership since 1971."
Here is a copy of Rep. Raul Grijalva's letter to Kenneth Salazar, the US Secretary of the Interior.
Dear Secretary Salazar,
I am writing to express my deep concern for the welfare of the Cibola-Trigo wild burros that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials intend to round up by helicopter beginning June 4. I am particularly concerned about the extreme heat of the Yuma desert during this time of year. Humane care during BLM roundups has been a major point of concern.
On July 13, the Humane Society of the United States submitted a report to the agency with recommendations on how to conduct humane roundups. Refraining from "helicopter drive trapping gathers in temperatures above 90 [degrees Fahrenheit]" was one of the key recommendations.
The Cibola-Trigo Environmental Assessment permits burros to be rounded up with helicopters in temperatures up to 105 Fahrenheit. Many veterinarians have submitted letters to BLM leadership demonstrating that burros cannot tolerate extreme heat — a full 15 degrees more than would allowable for horses — under stressful conditions. I agree with their conclusions.
I ask that the BLM postpone the Cibola-Trigo roundup at this time. When the temperature surpasses 90 degrees Fahrenheit, roundups of wild horses and burros should be suspended. The intense heat and sun of the Arizona desert can be lethal. It can be equally hard on BLM staff, contractors and the viewing public.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and your stewardship of America's public lands.