Death Valley’s Wild Burros~

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the lower ’48 consisting of 5,270 mi² of barren, beautiful desert. It holds the world record for the hottest place on earth topping out at 134 F in 2013.

Burros (donkeys) were introduced to the park by gold miners in the 1800’s. Some escaped and wild burros have thrived in the park ever since. Burros dig holes to find water and these holes are often used by other desert creatures. Burros are a food source for resident mountain lions, taking pressure off big horn sheep populations.

Burros are not wanted by The National Park Service in Death Valley.

The front page of the 2019 National Park Summer Visitor Guide says burros are an “invasive species……they stomp around and make a mess…they over browse…..they can be mean and aggressive when defending young….they stand in roads and won’t budge.”

This sounds a lot like some of the human visitors I have seen in national parks over the years. But despite this, the park service has pursued a policy of rounding up wild burros by helicopter and horseback, shipping them off to rescue organizations. “Eliminating wild burros from the park has been the park service goal since 2002,” (Pahrump Valley Times).

Having read about the wild burros, and wanting to see the last remaining ones, I decided to go search for them. I started by asking locals where I could find them. Every local I spoke to told the same basic story, which amounted to, “I haven’t seen them in the park. I have seen them outside the boundaries of park.”

One person even said, “It seems they know they are not wanted in the park, so they tend to stay just outside it.”

Pretty clever critters, huh?

The road to Beatty Nevada, a town of 1010 people, just outside the park came up in lots of conversations as a place where wild burros congregate. So off to Beatty we went.

Sure enough, near the outskirts of town, we started to see signs of burro presence, not stomped up messes, but donkey scat. My husband Jim is a patient person, and he was willing to take all sorts of rocky dirt roads following donkey scat. We had no luck, and were about to give up when Jim decided to drive around the perimeter of town, and there they were! A small herd of eight burros, with one dominant male, three foals, and four females. One female was pregnant. Here was the male being protective when we first saw the herd:

After awhile of distant observation, the burros seemed to decide we were not a threat, and walked slowly over and approached us directly, showing no sign of aggression. Mindful of the park literature, I backed away from them, and retreated to the safety of the car.

This was the burros reaction to my retreat!

A Beatty local resident, observing my caution, walked over and introduced us to the burros.

You can see his hand here.

No one should ever approach wild donkeys. They can be aggressive and dangerous when threatened. But this nice local man showed us their other side as well. They can also be friendly, curious and affectionate.

You can almost see Jim here making friends!

Cheers to you from the beautiful burros of Death Valley~

For further discussion of the burros and park policy see:

256 thoughts on “Death Valley’s Wild Burros~

    • I hadn’t seen either of these posts and I loved both of them! Thank you for sending them to me. I love the town’s embrace of the wild burros. Good for Oatman! They support my impression of these wonderful creatures.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I truly love furry donkeys, and they are clever critters, thank you Cindy for great collection of photos.
    I also love it when Derrick posts his Donkey photos the little farms in England….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They are so amazingly beautiful. You have given me such pleasure with your photographs. I love every single one of them. So sweet and I like them so much more than the Park Service People. They are the ones who should leave. Thank you for this. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Death Valley’s Wild Burros~ — (Look at all these truly gorgeous donkeys–Gigi) | Rethinking Life

    • Oh, yes, I know what you mean, which is one of the attractions of having them at The Holler. They broke no nonsense from coyotes! I have seen them deal with them and it is impressive and protective.


  4. ” “Invasive species” They stomp around and make a mess…they over browse…..they can be mean and aggressive when defending young….they stand in roads and won’t budge. We have the same here, Cindy, and they are human’s too!
    Thanks fro thegreat pictures, loved them! X

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, Cindy!!! I love those little burrows and can’t understand why the park has no use for them. I wish I had a lot of land to house unwanted animals on. What is wrong with people? They are doing what they need to do to survive. Grrrr. Just gorgeous creatures and I want them.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. How the hell do you stomp around and make a mess in the desert? *eyes rolling*

    My ex and I drove around Death Valley in November 2000. He had relatives in Henderson, NV, and we got out & wandered around. The landscape has a quiet beauty and I was fascinated with the abandoned rail lines there. I didn’t see any burros but, I was told of them.

    They are so cute.


  7. Hey Cindy,

    Perhaps growing up I read too much Winnie-the-Pooh but I can’t look at a donkey without thinking of Eeyore, who always was a little sardonic and gloomy, but whom I adored all the same.

    It seems a shame they are not wanted in the Park when they most probably didn’t want to be there in the first place but have thrived and made it their home. One can only hope they are well-taken care of by the rescue organisations.

    Wonderful photos as always, thank you.

    Enjoy your weekend,


    Liked by 1 person

    • “It seems a shame they are not wanted in the Park when they most probably didn’t want to be there in the first place but have thrived and made it their home.” As usual Dewin, you express yourself beautifully. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. They are so cute and cuddly. I am glad you have pictures of them with people and with car to give me a sense of how big they are. I thought they are small but with the pictures I can see they are pretty size.


  9. What I gather from your interesting post, Cindy, is that burros are cute and harmless animals. Just because they are considered invasive should not be a reason for expelling them from the park.


  10. Cute little fellows and as you said seem to show more common sense, and restraint with regard to respect for the park that protects and manages what we as visitors are blessed to have and visit at our own free will. The burros seem to know where or when they are wanted, where to reside, yet cautious of their surroundings. Smart burros. 🙂


  11. I saw burros like this on St. John’s Island in the Virgin Islands many years ago – and loved them.
    These pictures are awesome, Cindy, and thank you for sharing with us. You and Jim must make a great team!
    They are so smart to stay out of the park. I can’t believe the park relocated them. Very sad.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.