Hello all. Unfortunately, I have some pretty upsetting news to share with you this morning. Yesterday morning, a male juvenile donkey was found near the roadside after being hit by a car. The incident occurred near the Coral Bay overlook on Centerline Road and authorities were notified in the early morning hours by St. John residents who were unfortunate enough to witness the aftermath of the tragic event. This is the fifth donkey this year to have been killed by a vehicle on St. John. One in a year is one too many, but five is deplorable.
I don’t feel like anyone is blaming these tragic occurrences directly and solely on visitor traffic. We know that both taxis, trucks and residents can be just as negligent on our narrow and winding roadways! However, there are A LOT of visitor actions that feed into the donkey’s behaviors…With sometimes catastrophic results. The poor little guys and gals get comfortable and accustomed to vehicles and to people based on human behavior. When we feed the donkeys, pet them out of our car windows or otherwise make a vehicle or ourselves seem like a positive impact to an animal with easily learned behaviors (especially the babies!), we encourage their comfort level with the roads and the cars on them.
This seemingly innocent behavior on our part, results in a long lasting impact on the donkeys that can eventually lead to their demise.
I’ll spare you the graphic images that were posted on Facebook yesterday morning of the young donkey on the roadside with his mother still watching over him. But we need to elevate the conversation on this ongoing issue!. I generally try to keep things breezy, even when I’m trying to get a difficult point across. But there is nothing easy about this discussion and the information needs to be shared far and wide. I posted a PSA back in May about ways that we can better behave in respect to our favorite island furry friends. I believe it was just after another tragic report similar to this one.
The donkeys’ comfort level with the roadside and with vehicles can lead to an abrupt ending to their life! Think about it…If they see cars as nothing more than an apple or Dorito dispenser, they are going to be comfortable with approaching said vehicles on the road instead of having a healthy wariness of a motorized machine that, when moving at 20 MPH, could possibly kill them.
I’m not going to linger on this tragic news. But, instead, please take a serious look and contemplation over the list below of how we can be better humans to our donkey friends….
- DO NOT FEED THEM- This cannot be stressed enough. If humans or cars equal food in the donkey’s mind, they are going to spare no hesitancy in approaching either of the above. While a donkey on the trail eating an apple out of your hand can seem harmless, this seemingly innocent behavior makes a mark in the mind of the beast that will influence its future behaviors.
- Do not stop on the roads to take photos or pet them. Instead, consider carefully driving past while also leaning on the horn a bit. This new and startling noise may eventually devolve them from their comfort level with the roadways. We need to, as a team, start to make the donkeys fear us a bit in order to deescalate their positive associations with cars.
- DRIVE SLOW! As I mentioned, this is directed at ALL of us. Long time visitors, first time visitors, residents, taxi and truck drivers…ALL OF US. Keep left and keep your speed in the 20 MPH range. It’s incredibly difficult to see what may be around the corner of the narrow and winding roads on St. John. Take it easy and be a Sunday driver 🙂 Especially after dark!
- Leave it to the experts- If you witness an injured donkey on the road, the trail or the beach DO NOT TRY TO HELP. Instead, take careful note of your location (photos help too, but don’t get too close!) and contact St. John Wildlife Rehabilitation . They have a very informative page on their website that outlines who to contact as specified by the type of animal in distress.
- If you witness a donkey (or any other animal) being injured, try to get the license plate of the vehicle involved in the incident. Photos of the vehicle are always good too. Call the police with this information and report the animal and its location to St. John Rescue and Wildlife.
The BEST things that we can do are to act responsibly as individuals and to share this information so that others can do the same! I always say that unfortunately the folks who need to hear the message are not the ones paying attention. I generally feel like the readership of this site (that’s you!) has a desire to protect St. John and vacation responsibly. But, we need to get these very important messages out to those who don’t know where to look for it. The donkeys cannot speak for themselves so we need to do it for them!
If you truly want to have an interaction with some of St. John’s furry friends, also visit the Carolina Corral! Dana Bartlett cares for donkeys, horses, sheep, goats, dogs and more at this little domesticated wildlife sanctuary near Skinny Legs. You can treat yourself and your family to an immersive donkey experience which consists of three fun events with the donkeys leading them in sack race, obstacle course and pole bending. So you can experience some one on one time with the donkeys in a controlled and protected environment.
If you are interested in supporting protection of the wildlife on St. John, please consider St. John Wildlife Rehabilitation. There are many ways to donate your time, money or skillset, either short term or long term, in support of this very necessary organization that advocates for and supports St. John’s wildlife.
20 thoughts on “Call to Action – Our Donkey Friends Need your Help!”
Hi, We have a trip booked for 10/23 to 11/6. We come about once a year and are excited about returning since last year Covid kept us away. Is there an actual place we can visit to donate money for the donkeys? A couple years ago we were hiking and they were following us down the trail. Guess they thought we had food but did not. We do not feed them.
Debbie, Dana at Carolina Coral in Coral Bay does an amazing job helping sick and injured Donkeys and other animals on St John. She works tirelessly and relies on donations and volunteers to help with upkeep, feed, etc.
Check out her website.
We travel St John 2 or 3 time a yr for past 20 years. I assure you the crazy drivers are local people driving crazy on Center Line. Locals need to slow down. I have been been run off road for driving too slow.
Agree! Visitors just try to remember to stay left and watch the locals speed by…. Just home last night from the Island. The trucks, and the taxis drive crazy. Didn’t seem this crazy in the past years.
How about informing all the “locals” to slow down and quit tailgaiting driving way to fast to slow down for the donkeys. I was there in July and had to slow down for a young donkey and mother in roadway and the car behind me actually blew the horn at me and them proceeded to bump the mother out of roadway with her car. Disgusting!!!
Yep. Exactly. The fastest traffic on the island are the water trucks and propane gas trucks. Been tailgated waaaay too many times to count
Speed Bumps, Speed Bumps and more Speed Bumps.
I have driven many, many times on St. John and am always dumbfounded by the drivers who pass me at incredible speeds and on totally blind curves and it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. I actually surprised that more animals aren’t killed by the crazy reckless drivers. The police need to step up their game and start writing lots and lots of tickets.
A good way to get this information out would be to make a flyer and ask the rental car agencies to give it out to each customer.
Also, relaying this important message on the ferry and/or cabs.
I have to agree with earlier comments. I have been to St. John numerous times.
It is my happy place. But every time I am stunned by how fast locals drive on those curvy roads. I rarely see tourist rental jeeps driving so fast. Everyone has to be careful but I have to believe that easily 90% of the reckless driving is from locals.
Not just the locals, thanks. Especially lately. In the last 2 weeks alone I’ve had tourists in rental vehicles nearly hit me head on as they were sightseeing on the wrong side of the road. And if someone is “tailgating” you, find a safe place and pull over so they can pass. While you may be on vacation, they are not.
Horrible news. These animals are a joy to see on my visits. I work with horses and dogs, it is always a sad
day to lose one of these sweet creatures…
Maybe everyone who rents a vehicle on island, or brings one over on a ferry, should be required to sign a “notice of understanding” regarding wildlife/donkeys being on the road. I’m guessing these accidents are the result of everything mentioned in the article (feeding the donkeys, etc) AND driver ignorance. Could be a simple notice that may save some of our friends. Just a thought.
no need to post my previous comments, looks like the idea was already mentioned. It might be useful, however, to know (if it’s possible) whether most of these accidents are caused by locals, or tourists. Seems like the comment section believes it is the locals. Thanks
No more speed bumps!!! Just ticket the offending people. Why make everyone suffer for a few bad drivers. PS I have been coming to St John for 40 years. I just left two days ago and I saw more donkeys on the roads than ever before. They should be removed to a safer environment for all.
I recently became a full time resident after being a visitor for years. I have been a visitor driver and resident driver. This is NOT primarily about driving and I think it’s a mistake to waste time pointing fingers. The first time I visited, I was told the donkeys enjoyed carrots (I think it was at a Cruz Bay restaurant). I bought some and we pulled over and shared them with the donkeys. I went home and did some research and was horrified to discover I had done the wrong thing. If I had any inkling that was harmful, I NEVER would have done it. A posted sign on 10 and 20 leaving Cruz Bay would have done the trick. A paper given out at the rental car company would have done the trick too, but as we rented on St. Thomas, this would miss a lot of people.
The locals are worse this year, probably due to all the extra bonehead tourists, many of whom have not been there before, are unfamiliar with the roads, and can’t drive on the left. Agree with others who say they are surprised more animals aren’t killed. The way to stop this is to enforce traffic laws and cease overdevelopment.
Have visited every year for decades
Would putting COW BELLS on the donkeys help. If u think it might please email me
Thank you for bringing this important info to the public eye. While I agree with the previous comments regarding the speed of locals, the donkeys likely wouldn’t be close to the roads if people didn’t feed them. It’s so tempting because they are so cool and it’s cute to see them up close, but hearing that they are getting killed is awful.