javelinas   9 comments

Posted at 3:56 pm in Arizona,mammals

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks as I’m now on the road once more. For the past eight or so days, Sabrina and I have been traveling northwards through Arizona and Utah. We’ve been camping and doing quite a bit of hiking, so have been without a net connection most of the time. Sabrina is doing so much better than on our trip southwards back in October and early November. A couple of days ago, we hiked about 3 miles over fairly rugged terrain to see some rock paintings in a river canyon in southern Utah. She managed very well.

This is my first post of the day. I may try to put up one more while within range of the internet. A few of you expressed some interest in the group of Javelina that I wrote about in early March. They were very regular visitors who passed down the lane outside the garden at the house at Bisbee. I would usually see them just a little before 6 p.m., while I was preparing dinner or washing dishes at the sink overlooking the lane. When I first arrived, there seemed to be five in the group, but then a young one appeared, and then as time went on, they numbered eight – 5 adults and 3 smaller ones. When visitors were staying with me, I’d let them know shortly before the Javelina were scheduled to appear. Just about everyone saw them at least once if not several times. At first, Sabrina would bark at them a little, but as the weeks rolled by and she saw and smelled them many times, she got so that she wouldn’t bother with them.

Just a bit of info about Javelina, but then I’ll point you to a couple of links about them. The common name for them is Collared Peccary (Tayassu tajacu), but most people in the southwest refer to them as Javelina. The “collared” part of the name refers to a light coloured strip of hair on the shoulder area. You can see it in the photos above and below (click on them for larger views). Although they look rather like pigs, they are in their own family (Tayassuidae) while true pigs are Suidae. Their teeth are quite imposing — they have long, self-sharpening canine teeth. I found a photo of a replica of a Javelina skull on this page from a company called Bone Clones. You can see the long, sharp teeth and how they have a flat edge which rubs together where the upper and lower teeth meet. Although they seem well armed, they aren’t particularly aggressive. In fact, they tend to mind their own business and go about looking for prickly pear cactus and other preferred plant items. That said, I’ve been told that they can be dangerous enough if threatened — not so much to humans, but towards dogs and also typical wild predators. Also, they can be destructive to gardens, particularly if they become too familiar with the presence of humans.

The young have red coats and are called “reds” for that reason. Newborn javelina are active soon after birth – unlike pigs which require some time to grow and become mobile. I did see a very small, young javelina in December. At that point, it was about the size of a smallish cat and had red hair. It scampered along at its mother’s heels and raced after her when she decided to flee into the long grass on the hillside next to the lane. The adult males seem to be a bit larger than females and there is something distinctly different about their appearance — they have thicker manes and a heavier front end and neck and the head looks larger. From my observations, the females are more timid, and the males a little more inclined to being confrontational. On the times when I met them in the lane outside the garden wall, it was the males that would somewhat hold their ground and toss their heads up and down or to the side in what I took to be an aggressive gesture. While this was going on, the females and young would take the opportunity to run off into the grass or head up to the shelter of the manzanita and live oaks on the mountainside. A few times, I caught the group off guard – usually by accident as I tried not to startle or confront them. On those occasions, they would flee at amazing speed – their rear hooves kicking up into the air as they tore along the lane to the mountainside. One thing they seem to spend an inordinate amount of time doing is rubbing their heads and necks on each other’s hind ends. They have scent glands somewhere around their tails, so they stand side by side, head to tail, and rub against each other to get the scent on their coats. The scent is described as being somewhat skunk-like, which is probably true as I often thought I smelled skunk in the air, but I never did see any around the house, so it must have been javelina.

For those who might be interested, my friend, Paul Williams, shot this video clip of the javelinas outside the house one evening (note: the barking dog in the background is not Sabrina). I suggested that he wait outside in a certain spot and he would probably see them pass by within a few minutes. As if on cue, the group appeared in ones and twos. As you can see from the video footage, javelinas have very poor eyesight. They can’t really see you until they are almost next to you. They depend more on scent than sight. One evening, I stood very still in the middle of the lane and it seemed as though I was invisible to them. They knew I was there and were alarmed and the male put on quite a show of trying to be fierce, but I could tell he wasn’t actually sure where I was standing. The other interesting thing is how they raise the hair along their spines to make themselves look larger. You can see this best when the smallest one races along the road in the video clip. The hair on its spine stands up like a comb, a bit like it has a mohawk cut.

For more information on Javelina, visit here and here. Also, on this page you’ll find more info about the offspring and a nice photo of a mother with its young “red”.

Note: Thanks to my friend, Paul Williams, for allowing me to use his video clip in this post.

Written by bev on March 23rd, 2009

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