Location: The Harquahala (hark-ah-hay-la) Herd Area (HA) lies just six miles south of Aguila, Arizona on Eagle Eye Road, some 25 miles west of Wickenburg, Arizona 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 five inches a year, and summer temperatures here can exceed 125 degrees. Despite the harsh weather conditions, the vegetation thrives here, its diversity recognized as a Special Botanical Area. It’s not unusual to find palo verde, 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 non-game 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 private land owners, agricultural interests, bighorn sheep and other resources. Funding, however, was not provided and total removal has never occurred. Today, the population is estimated to be about 69 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 will continue to be removed when monitoring data indicate that damage to the vegetative resource is occurring. Animals causing damage to private property, including agricultural crops, will also be removed.