RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Wild burros have roamed the hills northeast of Riverside for decades. But with new development, and friendly neighbors feeding them, the burros are becoming much more of a nuisance.
"People are calling because they're damaging their plants and damaging their grass," said Sgt. Kyle Stephens with Riverside County Animal Services. "And they can do a lot of damage."
Stephens says their primary tactic when large numbers of burros move into foothill communities, like Highgrove, is to relocate the animals back into nearby Reche Canyon where many of them live.
But with between 800 and 1,500 burros wandering the hills, Stephens says they often come back to where there's food and water.
"We are relocating them back into the mountains, but sometimes weeks or months, they come right back," said Stephens. "Sometimes it's a different herd, but they're right back in the roadways right where we picked them up a week ago."
The situation is getting even worse. With a new housing development underway, burros are starting to venture farther north, into the San Bernardino County city of Grand Terrace.
"We're seeing a major obstruction of traffic when the burros migrate into the city," said Grand Terrance city manager G. Harold Duffey. "They don't walk on the side of the street; they walk in the middle of the street."
Duffey referenced a recent incident where burros wandered out onto Interstate 215 in Highgrove, causing a chain reaction crash. Several burros were killed, and at least one person was hurt.
Duffey said the city has partnered with the Donkeyland rescue in nearby Reche Canyon, to remove burros that are in the city and transport them to the hills. But a long-term solution in which surrounding jurisdictions join forces to find ways to keep the burros in their habitat is needed.
"It's going to require a partnership with multiple agencies," said Duffey. "To manage the animals, looking at their habitat, and figure out why they're leaving. (To find out) what's going on, and do they have the resources they need to stay in the particular area."
For the time being, officials are asking residents not to feed the burros.
"When you start feeding the burros...they start depending on us for food and resources," said Stephens.
Sgt. Stephens said people feeding the animals is the primary problem.
"They're very cute, and they get cuter over time because people are feeding them," said Stephens. "That's not good because we're just domesticating them, and that's going to cause them to come into the city limits and come up to your front door."
New development forcing burros into some Inland Empire cities
The burros are relocated away from homes, but they come back for food and water.