Javelina - February 20, 2008
Jeff Schalau, Associate Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County
The javelina (Pecari tajacu), or collared peccary, is common across much of Yavapai County. However, javelina are a relatively recent arrival in Arizona. Javelina bones are not found in Arizona archaeological sites and early European settlers made infrequent references to their occurrence. Today, the javelina’s range is from below the Mogollon Rim in Arizona eastward to parts of New Mexico and Texas and southward to Argentina. The Arizona Game and Fish Department currently estimates that we have approximately 60,000 of these unique animals in our state.
Adult javelina generally weigh 35 to 60 lbs, the male being slightly heavier than the female. They acquire adult coloration at three months. Javelina continue to grow until they reach adult height in about 10 months. At this age, the javelina are sexually mature. While javelina have lived to 24 years in captivity, the average life span is closer to seven or eight. Javelina have very close social relationships. They live in herds of 5 to 15 animals which usually eat, sleep, and forage together. Predation on javelina is common from mountain lions and bobcats. Coyotes and golden eagles are effective predators of juvenile javelina.
Being of tropical origin, peccaries are capable of breeding throughout the year and can have two litters per year when habitat and weather is favorable. In Arizona, breeding peaks in January, February, and March. After a 145-day gestation period, most births occur in June, July, and August to coincide with the summer monsoon season. New born javelina weigh about one pound and are tan to brownish in color with a reddish dorsal stripe. Two is the most common number of young. The young follow their mother shortly after birth and are usually weaned at six weeks.
Territories are defended by the rubbing of the rump oil gland against rocks, tree trunks, and stumps; this leaves smears of an oily fluid as a marker. In greeting, 2 group members frequently rub each other, head to rump. Both sexes actively defend the home range. Javelina fend off adversaries by squaring off, laying back their ears, and clattering their canines. In fight, they charge head on, bite, and occasionally lock jaws. Pet dogs are often viewed as predators, subsequently attacked, and can be seriously injured or killed by javelina.
Since javelina are found across so many habitat types, their foods vary greatly. Javelina are opportunistic feeders eating flowers, fruits, nuts, berries, bulbs, and many succulent plants. In Arizona, prickly pear cactus makes up the major portion of the diet. However, they are also known to occasionally eat eggs, carrion, snakes, fish, and frogs. Our gardens and landscapes often present them with succulent, novel foods which can lead to great consternation by the owners. A list of javelina resistant plants is available on the web at http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/az1238.pdf or can be picked up at your local Cooperative Extension office.
The most effective way to prevent javelina damage to gardens and landscapes is to exclude them using a sturdy, four foot tall fence. In situations where solid fences are not feasible, electric fences can be used. A single wire 8 to 10 inches above the ground is most effective. However, given the javelina’s thick fur and shear strength, this strategy is not always successful.
Javelina are a game animal and may not be hunted without a valid license (consult the Arizona Game and Fish Department for regulations and information). In addition, it is illegal to discharge firearms within city limits or within ¼ mile of residences.
Food and water will attract javelina. Many people feed wild birds and birdseed scattered on the ground is an attractant. To minimize this situation, avoid inexpensive birdseed which contains a large percentage of milo. Pets should be fed indoors or remove leftover food immediately. It is essential that people do not intentionally feed javelina (and other non-avian wildlife). When this is done, wildlife can alter their natural feeding behavior and become habituated to humans. It is important that all wildlife fear humans for their own protection and wellbeing.
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has publications and information on gardening and pest control. If you have other gardening questions, call the Master Gardener line in the Cottonwood office at 646-9113 ext. 14 or E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your address and phone number. Find past Backyard Gardener columns or submit column ideas at the Backyard Gardener web site: http://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/.
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Last Updated: February 13, 2008
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