Wild bur­ros, horses are long­stand­ing denizens of YPG

The Outpost - - Front Page - By Mark Schauer

For most of its 76 year his­tory, U.S. Army Yuma Prov­ing Ground (YPG) has seen it­self as a nat­u­ral lab­o­ra­tory, de­sir­ing to test equip­ment Sol­diers use in the most re­al­is­tic nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment pos­si­ble to en­sure it works as it should wher­ever in the world they are called upon to serve.

As such, YPG has a deeply vested in­ter­est in be­ing good stew­ards of the en­vi­ron­ment, and the prov­ing ground’s record in this area shines.

The prov­ing ground is home to one of the largest and most ge­net­i­cally di­verse pop­u­la­tions of bighorn sheep in Ari­zona. The Sono­ran Pronghorn, vir­tu­ally ex­tinct in the early 2000s, is now re­gen­er­at­ing thanks in part to Ari­zona Game and Fish of­fi­cials in­ten­tion­ally in­tro­duc­ing the crea­ture into YPG as a safe haven to help it re­gen­er­ate. A fringe-toed lizard that is threat­ened in most of the Amer­i­can West thrives at YPG, as does the Sono­ran tor­toise.

“We try to do proac­tive things to to help the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Daniel een Stew­ard, YPG wildlife bi­ol­o­gist.

“That way, the range is al­ways ready e to be used for mil­i­tary test­ing.” e Among the mul­ti­ple species found within YPG’s over 1,300 square miles of range space are wild horses and bur­ros, well known to all YPG per­son­nel who spend their days in the field test­ing equip­ment.

“There are a lot more bur­ros than there are horses. We track where they’re at for our safety.”

Though the bur­ros are gen­er­ally pop­u­lar with the YPG work­force, the crea­tures oc­ca­sion­ally cause mis­chief. For ex­am­ple, sev­eral years ago at least one en­ter­pris­ing burro man­aged to turn on a wa­ter spigot— he drank his fill, then de­parted with the tap still run­ning.

“Food, wa­ter, and shel­ter are what draw wildlife into our area. When it gets re­ally dry, horses and bur­ros are look­ing for wa­ter. Land­scap­ing and sprin­kler sys­tems pro­vide wa­ter—we re­ally try to watch out for pool­ing wa­ter that would at­tract bur­ros.”

This past win­ter was rel­a­tively rainy by desert stan­dards, which means range con­di­tions are such that the crea­tures are far less likely to ap­proach hu­man-pop­u­lated ar­eas.

“All of the wildlife right now is dis­burs­ing. When there are re­ally good range con­di­tions, an­i­mals start spread­ing out—they’re go­ing to ar­eas where they didn’t have food be­fore and now they do.”

Though some YPG per­son­nel miss see­ing the crea­tures as they tra­verse the range en route to far-flung gun po­si­tions, their rel­a­tive reclu­sive­ness has been a boon for mo­torists. Slow mov­ing and with binocular vi­sion, bur­ros are in­ca­pable of mov­ing out of the way of a ve­hi­cle mov­ing at high­way speeds in time to avoid a costly—and deadly—ac­ci­dent.

“In the past few months, we’re not see­ing as many bur­ros as be­fore be­cause they are stay­ing away from the roads. As things dry out, they are go­ing to come back-- they’ll be look­ing for for­age and wa­ter and we’ll have to con­tinue be­ing vig­i­lant when driv­ing on High­way 95.”

Mit­i­gat­ing the burro threat from the length of two-lane road with a higher traf­fic den­sity than any other in Ari­zona is no easy task, but Stew­ard and other wildlife of­fi­cials have done the best they can.

“We’ve elim­i­nated wa­ter sources near the roads to try to keep horses and bur­ros as far away from High­way 95 as pos­si­ble. It’s not healthy for the horses and bur­ros to be ex­posed to high lev­els of traf­fic, for the an­i­mals or for the peo­ple.”

Of­fi­cials also at­tempt to re­lo­cate bur­ros by or­ga­niz­ing gath­ers with the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment.

“If peo­ple let me know when they have spe­cific dam­age they are re­ceiv­ing from bur­ros, whether it is bro­ken wa­ter lines or some other in­fra­struc­ture dam­age, I can com­mu­ni­cate that with BLM.”

Aside from fa­vor­able weather and plenty to eat and drink, the crea­tures tend to live long lives due to their sheer size and wary pack men­tal­ity that de­ters desert preda­tors.

“Horses and bur­ros are big, strong, and have a herd to pro­tect each other. A lot of times they are too dan­ger­ous for a preda­tor to take down—it hap­pens, but it is rare. Moun­tain li­ons are typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with sheep, not horses or bur­ros.”

The bur­ros are prob­a­bly helped by the good­will of their hu­man neigh­bors, too.

“They’ve got a lot of per­son­al­ity. Bur­ros are less likely to shy away from peo­ple than a deer. They’re en­ter­tain­ing -- peo­ple truly do en­joy see­ing these an­i­mals around.”

Nonethe­less, Stew­ard cau­tions that bur­ros are still wild an­i­mals that should be treated as such. In par­tic­u­lar, feed­ing a wild burro should be strictly avoided.

“When peo­ple start feed­ing the bur­ros, they be­come a real nui­sance. These are wild an­i­mals—one beg­ging for food can be ornery. You want to keep a re­spect­ful dis­tance from any wild an­i­mal.”

Mit­i­gat­ing the burro threat from High­way 95, the two-lane road with a higher traf­fic den­sity than any other in Ari­zona is no easy task, but wildlife of­fi­cials have done the best they can. Aside from fa­vor­able weather and plenty to eat and drink, the crea­tures tend to live long lives due to their sheer size and wary pack men­tal­ity that de­ters desert preda­tors. (Pho­tos by Mark Schauer)

YPG has a deeply vested in­ter­est in be­ing good stew­ards of the en­vi­ron­ment, and the prov­ing ground’s record in this area shines. Among the mul­ti­ple species found within YPG’s over 1,300 square miles of range space are wild horses, well known to all YPG per­son­nel who spend their days in the field test­ing mil­i­tary equip­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.