In 1971, wild horses and burros were found roaming across 53.8 million acres of Herd Areas (HAs), of which 42.4 million acres were under the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) jurisdiction. Today the BLM manages wild horses and burros in subsets of these HAs, known as Herd Management Areas (HMAs) that comprise 31.6 millionacres, of which 26.9 million acres are under BLM management.
The Lake Pleasant HMA is 25 miles northwest of Phoenix. It is west of Interstate Highway 17 and north of State Highway 74 and northeast of Lake Pleasant. This HMA is 103,000 acres in the Sonoran Desert.
The area’s rugged mountains, numerous small canyons and open rolling hills cut across the HMA landscape. The vegetation is typical of the upper Sonoran Desert, where paloverde and mixed cactuses are common. Wildlife species sharing the region with the wild burros include desert mule deer, javelina and mountain lions. Other animals found here are small mammals, songbirds, amphibians and reptiles.
The wild burros are believed to be descendants of pack burros, which escaped or were released during the 1880s and 1890s. This was an era of extensive mining activity along the Agua Fria River and nearby Bradshaw Mountains. The burros were used as pack animals by prospectors and to carry ore to mill sites.
Wild burros evolved in the harsh deserts of North Africa and are very well adapted to the dry desert environment. Left alone in the remote region with few natural predators, the wild burro population flourished. The burros in this area weigh about 425 pounds and stand about 40 inches high. The majority of the burros living within the HMA boundaries congregate in or around Lake Pleasant Regional Park because of the abundant food and water. The population is about 478 animals.