A record drought that has plagued Texas and Louisiana for the past two years has resulted in many casualties, most recently the hundreds of donkeys that have been abandoned by ranchers unable to feed or care for them after suffering severe financial losses.
Donkeys were traditionally used by ranchers to guard remote herds of cattle, sheep and goats. Donkeys are very protective toward their herds and are well known to form close bonds with other species. They graze right alongside the herds and bed down with them at night. With their large ears, donkeys are alert for strange noises and will bray loudly to warn the herd and scare away predators such as coyotes, foxes and dogs. Donkeys will even chase and trample predators that get too close.
Unfortunately for the donkeys, the persistent drought led many ranchers to sell off or even slaughter their cattle once grazing lands could not support them. Texas alone has lost more than ten percent of its cattle - 1.4 million animals - since 2011. With fewer cattle to guard, many donkeys are out of a job. Ranchers with no need for donkeys after their cattle were gone could not afford to feed them after hay prices rose by 400 percent during the drought, and most could not sell them for even a few dollars each, or give them away. Desperate ranchers resorted to turning donkeys out along country roads or even sneaking them onto someone else's land at night.
Ultimately, these unwanted donkeys are rounded up by county sheriff's offices and turned over to donkey sanctuaries such as Texas-based Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, the largest of a handful of such donkey- specific organizations in the United States with 15 locations from Oregon to Maryland. Since March 2011, Peaceful Valley has taken in nearly 800 donkeys from Texas, double the total number it usually accepts annually. Peaceful Valley and the other donkey rescues actively work to find adoptive homes for these donkeys, who are typically docile, friendly, and smaller and less expensive to feed than horses.
Overwhelmed and trying to meet the needs of these unfortunate rescued animals, donkey rescues are in need of donations. To learn more or donate, check out: Peaceful Valley Donkey rescue http://donkeyrescue.org; Turning Pointe Donkey Rescue (Michigan) http://www.turningpointedonkeyrescue.com ; Longhopes Donkey Shelter (Colorado) http://www.longhopes.org.
Photo credit:cc: commons.wikimedia - Tomas Castelazo