Estimated abundance of wild burros surveyed on Bureau of Land Management lands in 2014

Product Type: 

Open-file Report




Griffin, P

Suggested Citation: 

Griffin, P. 2015. Estimated abundance of wild burros surveyed on Bureau of Land Management lands in 2014. Open-File Report 2015–1084. Reston, VA: U.S. Geological Survey. 42 p.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requires accurate estimates of the numbers of wild horses (Equus ferus caballus) and burros (Equus asinus) living on the lands it manages. For over ten years, BLM in Arizona has used the simultaneous double-observer method of recording wild burros during aerial surveys and has reported population estimates for those surveys that come from two formulations of a Lincoln-Petersen type of analysis (Graham and Bell, 1989). In this report, I provide those same two types of burro population analysis for 2014 aerial survey data from six herd management areas (HMAs) in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. I also provide burro population estimates based on a different form of simultaneous double-observer analysis, now in widespread use for wild horse surveys that takes into account the potential effects on detection probability of sighting covariates including group size, distance, vegetative cover, and other factors (Huggins, 1989, 1991). The true number of burros present in the six areas surveyed was not known, so population estimates made with these three types of analyses cannot be directly tested for accuracy in this report. I discuss theoretical reasons why the Huggins (1989, 1991) type of analysis should provide less biased estimates of population size than the Lincoln-Petersen analyses and why estimates from all forms of double-observer analyses are likely to be lower than the true number of animals present in the surveyed areas. I note reasons why I suggest using burro observations made at all available distances in analyses, not only those within 200 meters of the flight path. For all analytical methods, small sample sizes of observed groups can be problematic, but that sample size can be increased over time for Huggins (1989, 1991) analyses by pooling observations. I note ways by which burro population estimates could be tested for accuracy when there are radio-collared animals in the population or when there are simultaneous double-observer surveys before and after a burro gather and removal.


Paul Griffin
Paul Griffin