: The Black Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) situates itself in extreme northwestern Arizona. Located just 15 miles west of Kingman, the area parallels the eastern shoreline of the Colorado River for 80 miles, from Hoover Dam south to the Needles Bridge in California. The historic gold mining town of Oatman, Arizona lies in the center of the southern half of the HMA, giving visitors a glimpse of the area’s hustle and bustle history, along Historic Route 66.
Size: As the largest HMA in Arizona, Black Mountain is some 1.1 million acres covered with Mojave Desert shrub and Grand Canyon Desert shrub vegetation communities.
Habitat: This region is volcanic in origin, resulting in an area that is characterized by large mesas, steep cliffs, slopes, rocky foothills, alluvial fans and sandy washes. The climate is hot, windy and dry, with summertime temperatures exceeding 120 degrees, while the lows can be a chilly 25 degrees. Along the Colorado River, the area receives an average rainfall of just three inches. But, at the higher peaks, the soil drinks in up to 12 inches of rain annually. There are three wilderness areas within the Black Mountain HMA boundaries, resulting in a rich, fragile desert plan environment. Combined with its rugged topography, a wide variety of animals live here year round. In fact, the mountains are home to the largest herd of desert bighorn sheep on public lands in the nation.
History: Burros were first brought to the Black Mountains by miners and prospectors when gold was discovered in the early 1860s. Troopers stationed at nearby Fort Mojave, making up the California Volunteers, came up Silver Creek and fanned out through the foothills in search of gold. With them came their trusty pack burros. After gold was discovered, several mining booms followed. Eventually, of course, the gold ran dry and the miners moved on. The burros proved to be well suited to the harsh, unforgiving climate and terrain of the Black Mountains. As they escaped captivity or were left behind, the burros continued to thrive.
Population: Burros evolved in the deserts of North Africa and are exceptionally well adapted to hot, dry environments. With few natural predators, the wild burro population flourished, and by the mid-1970s had reached more than 2,000 animals. The large number of animals had a negative impact on the area’s fragile desert habitat. Today, the burro population is about 730 animals, with about two-thirds of the population living in the southern half of the HMA.
Management: The Black Mountain Ecosystem Plan was signed in 1996, establishing an Appropriate Management Level of 478 wild burros, coexisting with livestock, desert bighorn sheep and desert mule deer. About 90 wild burros are removed each year to maintain a balance within this unique desert ecosystem. Wild burros are offered to the public through the BLM’s Adopt a Wild Horse or Burro Program.