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California Desert District Office
Release Date: 08/24/10
Contacts: David Briery , (951) 697-5220  
  Erin Curtis , (916) 978-4622  
News Release No. CDD-10-97

BLM Conducts Rescue Mission for Stranded Burros

(Needles, Calif.) – Thirteen wild burros stranded in a remote area of San Bernardino county are the  focus of an unusual rescue mission coordinated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The burros are the last of a herd of 69 wild burros found stranded without water and outside their normal herd management area.

BLM Needles Field Office Manager Rusty Lee said BLM was notified Thursday afternoon by a local rancher that he had come across a number of burros that apparently had died of dehydration, but there were also others that were still alive at Fenner Spring, in the Piute Mountain Wilderness Area, about 35 miles west of Needles, Calif.  The herd was about 40 miles from the Chemehuevi Herd Management Area, the nearest BLM herd management area.

The rancher, who grazes livestock in an allotment covering the area, said the dead animals had clogged the spring in the pursuit of water in the 110-degree heat, preventing other burros from getting to the spring.  He attempted to pull out as many as he could with his horse, but wasn’t able to reopen access to the spring. The nearest alternative source of water is 12 miles away; Fenner Spring, an abandoned mine adit, is the only reliable source of water in the Piute Mountains. 

Lee said BLM immediately mobilized a helicopter, a county water tender, folding water tanks, and other equipment needed to rescue the remaining burros.  Although the site is in a federal wilderness area, BLM has authority to use “minimum tool” equipment in the case of emergencies, he said.  A BLM fire crew was dispatched to the area and deployed portable water troughs.  Corral staff from the BLM Ridgecrest Wild Horse and Burro Facility were also dispatched.

A contract fire helicopter reached the scene later that afternoon and began moving water from large portable troughs by the highway to a smaller water "pumpkin" near the spring.  Thirteen live burros watched a helicopter deliver 750 gallons of water.  BLM personnel then backed off at sunset to allow the burros to approach the water. 

Upon returning in the morning, 13 live burros were seen in the area and the water trough was empty.   Corral staff then ordered another 1,000 gallons delivery by helicopter and also set up secondary troughs for more water.  The county water tender delivered another 3,000 gallons to the helicopter drop point to be readily available as needed. Corral crews have been on-site to stabilize the surviving burros for further recovery and later transport to the Ridgecrest Corrals.

Lee said the rancher’s discovery and rapid reporting of the situation “saved the lives of the remaining burros.”  He said range specialists were unsure how the animals wandered into this area although burros are adept at finding water sources in the desert.  "BLM also took special precautions to minimize impacts to the wilderness and to rehabilitate the area, which was already disturbed due to the previous mining operation."

BLM California Deputy Director Tom Pogacnik said BLM will conduct an inquiry into the incident and credits Lee and all others involved with “a fast response and plan that undoubtedly saved the lives of the remaining animals."  The preliminary findings from the veterinarian brought to the site to check both living and dead burros were that the animals died from dehydration.   The remaining animals are in fair condition and with an adequate supply of water on hand are expected to survive.


California Desert District Office   22835 Calle San Juan de Los Lagos, Moreno Valley, CA 92553   

Last updated: 08-24-2010