Texas’ newest persona-non-grata: free-range donkeys. (Photo: Creative Commons/Marc+Cassandra)
From pulling wagons, guarding sheep flocks and guiding prospectors to rivers of gold, sure-footed donkeys are true pioneers of the American West.
But in modern drought-struck Texas, these humble heroes are being targeted by rifle-toting park rangers. According to the Associated Press, officials in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department consider the estimated 300 donkeys in Big Bend State Park, many of which are abandoned ranch animals that have wandered over from Mexico, to be destructive pests. Thirsty burros are depleting the park’s water supplies, which means less water for the rest of Big Bend’s native animals.
This isn’t the first time the state’s donkey hunt has faced stiff opposition. In 2007 when park rangers killed 71 wild burros, the resulting outrage caused the state to suspend its “lethal control” program.
Now that the donkey is under fire again, supporters of Change.org have gathered more than 95,000 signatures on a petition calling for a halt to the slaughter. Even a former Big Bend state park supervisor, Luis Armenderiz, has joined the ranks of the donkey’s defenders: “We’re invading their ecosystem,” Armenderiz said. “They’re not invading ours.”