Donkey Adoption: Bringing Home a Wild Burro

Posted by Kat Tretina

In Arizona, wild burros thrive on the rangeland.

Burros have few predators and the hardy little animals continue to multiply in the Arizona desert. Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, the burro population is protected by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Department of Agriculture but the harsh landscape can only support so many burros. If the number of animals is not controlled, many burros and other wild animals would starve to death in the harsh desert environment where there are often not enough water sources.

Since 1973, the BLM has rounded up excess burros on public land and, through the Adopt-a-Burro program, qualified individuals can adopt a wild burro. This initiative is similar to other BLM federal government programs in other states like Nevada and California, where people can adopt wild horses too.

What is a burro?


A burro is considered a very small wild donkey. They are tough little creatures often used to pull heavy loads. They can be as small as 34 inches at the shoulder and weigh as little as 240 pounds, but some can be as large as 400 pounds.

wild horse and burro

The lifespan of burros is fairly unknown; because they primarily live in the wild, it's difficult to determine how long they can live with proper nutrition and medical intervention. Some burros have been recorded to live as long as 17 years, with some experts stating that they could live much longer.

Why would I adopt a wild burro?

Wild Burro Gentled

Besides being very cute, burros have a gentle nature. Even a wild burro, with time and patience, can become a loving companion. Their sweet disposition makes them excellent buddies for high-strung or nervous horses.

Additionally, these little beasts are fierce, and will defend herds of goats or sheep from predators. They make excellent backyard pets and can be very affectionate. They also make great pack animals if you want to bring them on hiking backcountry trips.

What are the requirements?

To adopt a burro, you need to be at least 18 years of age and have the financial means to care for the animal. You also need to have an adequate shelter set aside before applying for an animal.

A burro must have a place to come in from bad weather and escape oppressive heat, such as a stall. The BLM requires that the facility for the burro to be at least 12 feet by 12 feet if he is exercised daily, and 20 feet by 20 feet if not exercised daily. Fences need to be at least four feet high, and barbed wire cannot be used.

The cost to adopt is $125 for an untrained burro and $200 for a trained burro. Adopters are responsible for all of the costs of the burro's care, including shoeing, vaccinations, feed, supplements, grooming supplies, and more.


What should I expect when my burro comes home?

Most burros have not been gentled, so it is recommended that you only release them into a small pen at first; otherwise they'll run and hide, making caring for them and having a veterinarian examine them impossible.

It takes time a patience to earn a burro's trust, but once you have bonded with your little wild guy, it's well worth the work.

If you a ready for a burro friend, fill out an application here and get the adoption process started!

Have you ever seen wild horses or wild burros? Tell us in the comments. 

All photos courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

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Donkey Adoption: Bringing Home a Wild Burro