Chosen for their lack of what a federal official called "the Bambi complex," riflemen were dropped by helicopter into the wilderness of fire-blackened Bandelier National Monument yesterday to kill more wild burros.
The National Park Service has declared the crafty, long-eared animals - protected on most federal lands - a threat to the forage for deer and other native wildlife on this 36,000-acre adopted home. Because the 160 burros are descendend from pack animals that went astray 50 years ago they are classified as an unnatural species.
Asked if any of the marksmen had qualms about killing mother burros with their young, Park Service naturalist Roland Wauer said: "That's the Bambi complex, the Smokey the Bear complex. That's public relations. If you're a professional like these guys, you ignore some of those things."
On most federal lands, the burro hunt would be prohibited by the National Wild Horse and Burro Act, but Wauer said the law doesn't apply to National Park Service lands.
Last spring a 60-day cowboy-style roundup captured only nine of the intelligent animals at a cost of 340 man-hours each. Said Wauer, "A jack [male] will know every inch of territory. He'll know which tree to stand behind."