Maybe pet donkeys are happier being wild burros

This is a story of a pet donkey who appears to have been well cared for but despite that ‘escaping’ and becoming a wild burro to live a life of freedom in the Californian hills with a herd of elk who accepted him. He is at home with animal friends. He returned to his natural state and his owners who discovered his whereabouts will leave him there as, “He’s living his best life. He’s happy. He’s healthy, and it was just a relief,” Mrs Drewry said. Is she admitting that the life she gave him was worse than the life he now lives? I think so.

Terrie and Dave Drewry, of Auburn, are convinced that the wild burro, filmed by a hiker earlier in June, is their pet “Diesel”. And they are happy for him.

Diesel was spooked and took off during a hiking trip with Mr Drewry near Clear Lake, California in 2019.

Daniel with his elk herd
Daniel with his elk herd. Screenshot.

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There is nothing more to say except to think that maybe pet donkeys are better off being wild burros. Of course I am being silly. Donkeys are a useful utility animal all over the world in developing countries. Sadly, they are consistently abused. It is horrible to see how people can so habitually abuse the humble donkey. What a failure for humankind. 😢🫏

But what a success for Diesel. There is no suggestion that the Drewrys were poor donkey caregivers. I sense that they were very good but Diesel was still happy to live the wild life.

Donkeys need company. It is essential for their wellbeing. They can make good pets and form close bonds with humans. A testament to their social needs.

The wild burro, also known as a wild donkey, is a descendant of the African wild ass that roams the deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico. These hardy creatures were first introduced to the Americas by the Spanish in the 1500s. Originally used as pack animals, many burros were later abandoned when miners and explorers no longer needed them.

Wild burros are incredibly tough and well-adapted to their harsh desert environment. They can survive for long periods without water and can eat a variety of desert plants. They are social animals that live in herds of up to 15 individuals, typically consisting of a dominant jack (male), several jennies (females), and their foals.

Wild burros are an important part of the desert ecosystem. However, their populations can grow quickly, which can lead to competition with native wildlife for food and water. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing wild horse and burro populations on public lands. The BLM uses a variety of methods to manage burro populations, including gathers, adoptions, and fertility control.

Here are some additional facts about wild burros:

  • They are smaller than their wild horse cousins, standing about 13-14 hands (52-56 inches) high at the shoulder.
  • They have long ears, a short mane, and a brown or gray coat.
  • They are intelligent and social animals.
  • They are an important part of the desert ecosystem.

Wild burros in America are descendants of domesticated animals brought over by Europeans, primarily the Spanish, in the 1500s. There are two main reasons why we have wild burro populations today:

  1. Escapes and Abandonment: These burros, valued for their sure-footedness and ability to thrive in harsh conditions, were used by explorers, miners, and the military for transportation and carrying supplies. However, as needs changed or projects ended, many burros escaped or were simply left behind. These abandoned animals found ways to survive in the wild and reproduced, forming the foundation of today’s wild burro herds.
  2. Survival and Adaptation: Wild burros are incredibly hardy. They can go long stretches without water, eat a variety of desert plants, and are strong and agile. These traits allowed them to not only survive on their own but also to thrive in the often-harsh desert environment. The abundant open spaces provided suitable habitat for them to form herds and reproduce.

So, the presence of wild burros in America is a consequence of their introduction by humans, coupled with their remarkable ability to adapt and survive in the wild.

Donkeys and wild burros, both being equines, share a strong social need for companionship. Here’s why it’s important for their well-being:

Natural Behavior:

  • Herd Animals: Both donkeys and wild burros are naturally herd animals. In the wild, they live in groups with a social hierarchy, offering protection, communication, and a sense of belonging. This social interaction is crucial for their emotional and mental well-being.
  • Reduced Stress: Companionship helps reduce stress in these animals. They find comfort and security in the presence of others. Being alone can lead to anxiety, vocalization (braying), and even depression.
  • Mutual Grooming: Donkeys and burros groom each other to strengthen social bonds, remove parasites, and stimulate blood flow. This behavior promotes calmness and fosters a sense of community within the herd.

Captive Care:

  • Importance of Companions: In a domesticated setting, donkeys and burros should ideally have a companion, This can be another donkey, a burro, or even a compatible horse (though some introductions require careful management).
  • Signs of Loneliness: A lonely donkey or burro may exhibit behavioral changes like pacing, vocalizing excessively, loss of appetite, or self-mutilation. These behaviors highlight the importance of providing them with social interaction.

Alternatives to Another Equine:

  • Limited Space: If keeping another equine companion isn’t feasible due to space limitations, providing ample interaction with humans or other compatible animals (like goats or sheep) can help to some extent.
  • Structured Interaction: Regular turnout with other animals in a safe environment or providing enrichment activities that encourage natural behaviors can also be beneficial.

Overall, companionship is vital for the emotional and mental health of donkeys and wild burros. It reduces stress, fosters a sense of security, and allows them to exhibit natural social behaviors.

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