In the aftermath of the fire there could be no further talk of reducing the burro herd by live capture, and on June 29 marksmen were dropped by helicopter. They shot 37 on their first day. By the second day the burros had begun to take evasive measures, probably moving into the unburned portions of the national forest, and only 19 were shot. By the third day they had almost disappeared; the helicopters flying back and forth were spotting few burros, and only 10 were killed, bringing the total to 66.
"We had to do it," says Milford Fletcher, a former college professor who is now a biologist with the National Parks Service. "And we are morally and legally right. I went with the crew; I didn't think I should order anybody to do anything I wouldn't do myself." When you look at the studies and photographs that the Parks Service has prepared on the damage to the range done by wild burros, there is no question about it—burros do a lot of harm to the ecosystem. But when you look at the acres of burnt-over desolation, you can't help but wonder about the damage done by man.