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Men admit to killing protected wild burros in Mojave Desert, federal prosecutors say

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Posted at 8:36 AM, Mar 19, 2024

Two men have pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for fatally shooting three wild burros with AR-style rifles in Southern California's Mojave Desert, prosecutors said Monday.

The men, identified as Christopher James Arnet, 32, of Colorado, and Cameron John Feikema, 36, of California, said in their plea agreements that they drove out to the desert in Arnet's truck in November 2021. The area they drove to was public land in San Bernardino County, according to a news release from the U.S. District Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. When the men got out of the truck, they were dressed in tactical gear, including helmets with night-vision goggles, and carrying short-barreled AR-style firearms.

At around 1 a.m. local time, the two men fired on wild donkeys, or burros, killing three of the animals. One animal was paralyzed and in "severe pain before it died," prosecutors said. Each man fired multiple rounds, and Arnet fired the bullet that paralyzed one of the donkeys, according to an investigation by the Bureau of Land Management.

The firearms were later seized from the men's homes. Investigators found that the weapons were unregistered, despite requirements that they be registered under federal law.

Both Arnet and Feikema were charged with a felony count of possession of an unregistered firearm, and a misdemeanor count of maliciously causing the death of a burro on public lands. Both men pleaded guilty to the charges, and as part of their plea agreement, agreed to forfeit the rifles, night vision goggles, and other gear, including over 4,000 rounds of ammunition.

The men will next appear in court on July 8 for sentencing. They each face up to 10 years in prison for the firearm charge and one year in prison for the charge of killing the burros.

Burros are federally protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, as CBS News previously reported, and those found guilty of capturing, branding, harassing or killing wild, free-roaming horses or burros could face a fine and jail time.