Location: The Harquahala (hark-kwa-hay-la) Herd Area (HA) begins six miles south of Aguila, Ariz., on Eagle Eye Road. Aquila is about 25 miles west of Wickenburg on U.S. Highway 60. Wild burros inhabit the Harquahala Mountains, as well as the surrounding foothills and valleys.
Size: This 126,000-acre area extends from the Harquahala Mountains on the north to the Big Horn Mountains on the south.
Habitat: The Harquahala Mountains lie low across the desert landscape, their granite range surrounded by broad desert basins. The average rainfall is about 5 inches a year, and summer temperatures can exceed 125 degrees. Despite the harsh weather conditions, vegetation thrives here. The area is designated as a Special Botanical Area because of its diverse vegetation. It’s not unusual to find paloverde, ironwood, ocotillo, mesquite, creosote bush, triangle leaf bursage and the giant saguaro cactus. Additionally, the Harquahala Mountains contain pockets of jojoba, shrub live oak, sugar sumac, mountain mahogany and other warm temperature-loving plants. This HA has numerous springs that provide water for the wild burros, livestock and other wildlife. Riparian vegetation, such as cottonwood, willow, cattails and bullrush dot many of the springs. Wild burros share their habitat with other wildlife including desert bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, bobcat, mountain lion, coyotes, gray fox, Gambel’s quail, dove, bats, desert tortoise and other nongame species.
History: Wild burros living in the Harquahalas are believed to be descendants from escaped or released domestic pack animals from the late 1800s.
Population: Following the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971, the BLM classified the Harquahala Mountains as a “zero burro population” area. This required removing all burros from the mountain range. This decision was based on conflicts in the region with landowners, agricultural interests, bighorn sheep and other resources. Funding, however, was not available and total removal has never occurred. Today, the population is estimated to be about 70 burros.
Management: The BLM’s Lower Gila Resource Management Plan Amendment proposes to establish the Harquahala Herd Area as a management area. Wild burros would be cared for to maintain a thriving natural ecological balance within the area. Some burros would continue to be removed when damage to the vegetative resource is occurring. Animals causing damage to private property, including agricultural crops, would also be removed.