The Hickison Burro HMA is managed in conjunction with the Hickison Burro Wild Burro Territory located on the adjacent USFS lands. The BLM portion approximates 70,000 acres in size, which is one of the smaller HMAs administered by the BMFO. Additionally, the U.S. Highway 50 right-of-way fence cut the HMA in half, limiting the habitat used by the burros to the southern portion which is only around 52,000 acres in size. Currently, there are approximately 108 burros and 1 wild horse inhabiting the HMA and WHT south of U.S. Highway 50.
The BLM established the AML for the HMA as a range of 16-45 burros in 2004. The USFS will be establishing an AML on the WHT portion in the coming years.
The habitat of this area is droughty, with sparse vegetation and water resources. The burros must move throughout the HMA to locate forage through the various times of the year.
The burros currently have available to them three sources of water: Joe’s Well, Burro Well, and the Spencer Hot Springs. All three of the water sources are located within the same general area in close proximity to each other. The Burro Well is located 1.2 miles north east of the hot springs. Joe’s Well is 3.2 miles northeast of the hot springs These two waters are actually located just within the USFS boundary. The three water sources are the only recorded water sources available to the burros. There water needs likely decrease substantially in winter, and they may obtain sufficient moisture from forage and snow. In the summer months, water is obviously critical.
In 2000, the National Mustang Association (NMA) donated equipment and labor to install a functional solar array and pump to the Burro Well. In 2002, the NMA again donated equipment and labor to fix the Pete’s Well (Joe’s Well), and install solar array and pump. The NMA published articles about these achievements in their newsletter “Mustang”.
These wells provide drinking water for domestic livestock, the wild burro herd, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, numerous other mammals such as coyote, bobcat, rabbit, badger and thousands of resident and migratory birds. The wells are currently being pumped from depths ranging from 120 to 175 feet. These water sources and the hot springs themselves are the only water sources available to the burros and other users.
The two most recent census flights (1998 and 2002) have found the burros distributed from the very eastern portion at Hickison Summit, in the vicinity of the hot springs, and in the draws and canyons to the south.
Once of the earliest recorded flights by BLM personnel took place in 1975. Eleven burros were observed east of the hot springs near Pete’s (Joe’s) Well.
In 1977, 15 burros were counted from the ground near Spencer Hot Springs. During the 1980’s the burros were being shot by recreational visitors to the hot springs, and in 1993 approximately 7 burros were transplanted from a Burro area managed by the Winnemucca BLM to the Hickison Burro HMA.
Since the burros were transplanted from Winnemucca in 1993, they have prospered. The population totaled 41 during the 2002 census flight. Only 25 burros were counted during the 1998 flight. The population appears to be increasing at the BMFO average of 17.5% annually, and the 2007 population is estimated at 108 burros.
Burros do not have the same reproductive or mating cycles of wild horses. Wild burros are polyestrous and can breed and give birth throughout various times of the year. The social structure is not the same as wild horses either. A jack burro (male) does not tend a harem of jennies (females) as stud horses would with mares. The social structure is relatively loose, and bonds usually exist between a jenny and her young. Jacks may remain alone or in small groups unless they locate a female in estrous at which times, large groups of animals may be observed for short periods of time.
This small burro population is the only one administered by the BMFO. Local residents enjoy viewing the burros in the wild both as a stand alone activity and in conjunction with recreational activities at the Spencer Hot Springs.