Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Open-File Report 2015–1084

Estimated Abundance of Wild Burros Surveyed on Bureau of Land Management Lands in 2014

By Paul C. Griffin

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.54 MB)Summary

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.

First posted May 5, 2015

For additional information contact:
Director, Fort Collins Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. C
Fort Collins, CO 80526–8118

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). For best results viewing and printing PDF documents, it is recommended that you download the documents to your computer and open them with Adobe Reader. PDF documents opened from your browser may not display or print as intended. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge. More information about viewing, downloading, and printing report files can be found here.

Suggested citation:

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

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)


Executive Summary



Study Areas





References Cited

Appendix. Definitions of Sighting Covariates

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, December 07, 2016, 09:41:26 PM