NEEDLES, Calif. (KTVU) - A reward of more than $50,000 is being offered, after dozens of protected wild burros have been found shot and killed in California's Mojave Desert.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said since May, 42 wild burro carcasses have been found along a 60 mile stretch of Interstate 15 from Halloran Springs, California to Primm, Nevada.
BLM officials said the donkeys had been shot in the neck. Some were killed near watering holes, where they were drinking.
"In many instances, the person or persons appear to be shooting at the burros from a distance," said BLM spokeswoman Sarah Webster. "The weapon is believed to be a rifle."
The burros being targeted are from the Clark Mountain Herd Area of the Mojave Desert, which before the shootings, had a population of about 120 burros, according to Webster, who added that these animals were and are in good health.
The BLM is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the deaths.
Others have come forward to contribute to the reward fund.
On Monday, the Humane Society said an anonymous donor from its burro protection initiative, the Platero Project, donated $32,500.
The American Wild Horse Campaign, Return to Freedom, and The Cloud Foundation have also joined in the efforts to stop the killings, offering $2,500, $5,000 and $1,000 respectively.
"We're very glad the BLM is taking this sick crime seriously," said The Cloud Foundation's director, Ginger Kathrens. "The burros belong to the American people and are beloved symbols of our nation's history and pioneer spirit. They deserve to be protected."
Killing a protected burro is punishable by a $2,000 fine and a year in jail.
The animals are federally protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The law designates wild, free-roaming horses and burros as integral parts of the natural system of public lands and aims to protect the animals from capture, branding, harassment and death, according to the BLM.
"America's public lands belong to all of us," said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom, adding, "These cruel and hostile acts against federally protected animals strike at the heart of everyone working so hard for their protection and for humane, non-lethal solutions to management concerns."
Anyone with information about the killings is urged to call the federal WeTip hotline at 800-782-7463 (800-78CRIME), or visit the crime reporting website here.