At cocktail parties and on outdoor outings, people tell stories about javelinas. The tales are laced with fear and fascination. This good sized desert mammal lurks on the edges of our neighborhoods, coming right into gardens to paw up and consume pansies and bulbs. People claim javelinas will charge and even kill a dog. This is hogwash. Javelinas do roam in herds, and they do look fierce with their bristling hair, but they are painfully shy and avoid people and dogs.
These animals are herbivores. Although they look like pigs, they are more closely related to wild boars. Their favorite food is the prickly pear cactus, which provides nutrients and moisture. They also eat a variety of succulent plants, roots, bulbs, berries, and occasionally lizards and dead birds or rodents.
Javelinas live in family groups of around 10 individuals. The close knit clans eat, sleep and play together. Because of very poor eyesight, javelinas rely on keen hearing and an acute sense of smell. Oil glands on the tops of their rumps produce javelina musk unique to each family group. Daily routines include rubbing this scent on each other and around their territory. The aroma permeates the tribe, allowing them to stay together as they meander and graze.
An adult javelina stands two feet tall and weighs from 35-50 pounds. He can run 21 mph. Newborns weigh just one pound. Predators include mountain lions, bobcats and human hunters. Coyotes and golden eagles will take youngsters. The javelina gets its name from closely aligned canines that sharpen each time the animals closes its mouth. In the event of an attack, the animal defends itself with these razor sharp teeth.
Javelinas live in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico and through the tropics to the northern regions of Argentina. They may breed at any time of the year, although the babies are often timed to coincide with rainy seasons when there will be plenty of food available. The herds feed in the morning and afternoon and lounge together in community beds during the heat of the day. I’ve come across javelina beds while hiking, large smooth areas sheltered under trees where the dirt has been dug up to provide a soft resting place. The beds are marked with imprints of cloven hooves and wide rumps.
Photos by Terry Stevens and Wikipedia