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Stranded on Flooded Islands, Rescued Burros are Rescued Again

Staff at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch herd burros away from flooded areas of the sanctuary.

This past winter and spring at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch has been a wet and wild one. The torrential rains pounding East Texas spurred grass growth in our pastures, providing abundant fresh food for our hundreds of horses, burros, cows, and bison. The burros also enjoyed the belly-deep lush grass, the effect of pastures responding to the increased moisture.

However the rains also swelled the Kickapoo Creek, which runs through the ranch. The creek flooded its banks and the ranch’s lower pasture areas. While the horses and most other hooved animals took off to higher grounds, some of the burros remained where they were and became stranded as the water rose. The plot of ground on which they were standing grew smaller and smaller, and the shrinking ground also meant the burros had little to no food.

Since the constant rains kept the creek in a flooded fury, ranch workers quickly formulated a plan to feed the burros and any other animals trapped in “instant lakes.” Using a newly purchased boat, staff ferried hay out to the burros stuck on islands in the flooded areas. Attempts to lead them through the water were repeatedly unsuccessful, though. The burros refused to go in beyond the depth of their bellies.

Budging Burros to Safety

With the assistance of The Humane Society of the United States’ disaster services team, who by happy circumstance was spending the weekend training at the ranch, our staff waded into the swollen stream and again approached the burros very carefully, herding them in the direction of the shallowest water. This time, our staff was successful in driving the burros out of the flooded area and back up onto dry pasture. The burros shook off the muddy water and proceeded to bray, as if nothing unusual had happened.

The stranded burros scamper to higher ground after much coaxing.

We can't imagine what was passing through the burros' minds as they were temporarily stranded. Many have already been rescued from public lands, threatened with extermination by the government for being "nuisance" animals by competing for food with cattle out west.

Rescuing animals from life-or-death situations is only the beginning of our mission. Maintaining safe and healthy environments once animals are on our sanctuary grounds is a more long-term aspect of our job, and one that constantly presents challenges, some of which are caused by natural disasters. Due to the ranch’s location in weather-challenged East Texas, we’ve had close calls with brush fires, drought, and floods. Acting rapidly when danger arises is a necessary part of our long-term animal care.

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Posted July 5, 2007