I’ve revised the “Warpath” entry on Rancho Cebolla, thanks to Bob Roland, who graciously took the time to revisit the site with me and point out all I had missed in my first visit a couple of years ago, including the graves of Domingo Gallegos and Jose Maria Vargas.
In revising the entry, I also turned up a pic of a little herd of burros that I saw in my previous trip up that way. I reported the sighting to a ranger at that time, and he seemed as surprised as I was to hear they were in the Cebolla Wilderness. I had thought of them as an Arizona problem, but apparently they’ve spread far and wide in the Southwest and even as far afield as South Dakota since Congress declared them “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” and granted them protected status 45 years ago.
In that fog of feel-good sentimentality, nobody stopped to consider that they’re randy little critters, well able to defend themselves against coyotes and other predators and excellently adapted to the arid Western environment. The burro population doubles every four years, creating an expensive headache for the BLM. Like the feral horses everybody insists on calling “wild mustangs,” the burros compete with native wildlife (and range cattle) for available forage and water, and the geometrically expanding population would quickly starve if the surplus wasn’t occasionally rounded up and removed. As with the horses, misguided sympathizers won’t allow the feds to slaughter the animals but instead insist the excess either be placed in a loving home or cared for at taxpayer expense — which the BLM estimates at $48,000 per head over the course of each captured animal’s life. Today, the taxpayers are spending $50 million a year to pasture and care for 47,000 horses and burros that have been removed from the open range.
“I urge people from across the country to go to an adoption event this year and bring home one of these icons of the West,” says BLM Director Neil Kornze. Good luck with that. Burros make expensive pets. Unless you’re planning to go prospecting, you’re better off with a good dog.