Mining museum gets new resident donkey

Special to The Tribune
Posted

There's a new burro roaming around at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry. The museum has been the home to burros since the 1970s and recently adopted its newest addition. Working with the Longhopes Donkey Shelter, the museum's new burro, Chism, arrived on Nov. 7 to the greetings of the museum's adoring volunteer team. Waiting for the arrival of Chism was the museum's long-time resident burro and local community icon and museum mascot, Nugget.

While these long-eared pack animals are called donkeys in the rest of the country, in Colorado the Spanish word is used. Since the mid-1800s, the prospector with his burro has been an iconic symbol of mining and the American West.

As pack animals, they accompanied the prospector and carried his belongings as he panned and placer-mined for gold in hopes of finding the mother lode. Prior to mechanical forms of transporting mining materials, burros also provided power for hauling rock from underground mines. The sad but true fact is that in the late 1800s as mining booms played out and other forms of transportation became available, miners released their burros to fend for themselves.

The animals were very well adapted to the dry desert environment of the American Southwest where their wild populations flourished. In 1971, the United States Congress passed the Wild Horse and Burro Act. The act made the Bureau of Land Management responsible for managing these herds and established the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program to give wild, unwanted horses and burros a chance to live a happy existence. When an over-population of wild burros exists on a range, the excess animals are removed and offered for adoption.

Besides their duties as mascots, Nugget and Chism play a vital role in the museum's education mission. The burros are key participants in the museum's “Pack Your Burro and Discover the Pikes Peak Region” program and other special events throughout the year. Through interaction with our burros in their playpen, our two-legged visitors learn about donkey history, physiology, diet and grooming.

Nugget and Chism are supported by museum donors, including the recent generous and contribution of labor and materials for critical infrastructure from Green Electric and Sunstate Equipment Company.

An invitation-only adoption party with volunteers and burro supporters will be held for Chism in the coming weeks, and the community is invited for introductions at the museum's Winter Break with the Burros event at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Dec. 28. For further information on Chism's arrival, go to http://wmmi.org/burros-2012. For information on museum events, tours, and admission prices, check out the museum's website at www.wmmi.org or call (719) 488-0880.

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