On June 16, four Sportsman’s Club of Sun City West members decided to hike from the trailhead below the New Waddell Dam following Beardsley Trail into Lake Pleasant Regional Park.
This trail crosses the Agua Fria River on wooden bridges and then goes north parallel to the service road. Barbed wire fences on each side create a narrow access and, on this morning, there were a few head of cattle that the hikers pushed along the way.
In a short distance the hikers — Judy Griffin, Tom Sloan, Dave Erickson and Tom McLean — noticed that the strands of barbed wire started to vibrate, and they heard a burro braying loudly. They found a yearling burro on the ground with its left hind leg caught in the fence. Griffin took photographs as the men, using their hiking poles as levers and pulling with their hands, were able to release the burro. Despite some skin tears on its leg, it was able to trot over to join a near-by small herd of 8-10 burros.
There are about 9,000 wild burros in Arizona. They were brought from North Africa to Spain by the Moors, and then to the new world by Spanish explorers. Later they were used in the southwest by gold prospectors. A lot of them were simply released into the wild and they have been able to survive. Burros are ideally suited to living in the desert. They eat a lot of scrub brush and grasses and they can lose up to 30% of their body weight in water and survive. They also can dig wells up to six feet deep to find water. These wells are then used by native animals. This trait also benefits the native animals during this 22-years (and counting) drought we are now having.
Wild burros are a common sight in and around Lake Pleasant, especially west of the park on the Walkin’ Jim Trail. It is estimated that there are about 450 burros in this area.
The Sportsman’s Club offers about 8-10 guided hikes every year in Lake Pleasant Park and on the Walkin’ Jim Trail. Visit sportsman.scwclubs.com, under the “Hiking” section for details about these hikes. The site is updated monthly. Join the club at the monthly general meetings, which will resume in September 2022.
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