They look like hairy pigs, but aren’t. The Spanish, who were the first Europeans to settle in Southern Arizona, called them “javelina” meaning javelin or spear. When you see the skull of a collared peccary, you immediately know why. Those tusks are impressive.
Typically they weigh 35 to 45 pounds, but some males beef up to 60 pounds. The dominant male keeps virtually all of the mating privileges to himself (To quote Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be King.”).
Their natural range is from here in the Sonoran Desert all the way south to Argentina.
They will avoid a confrontation if possible, but will fight if cornered or their young are threatened. Acting in concert, which they often do, they can easily kill a domestic dog and cause great bodily harm to humanoids.
One night we had 7 in our yard. I herded them out an open gate by producing mighty vocalizations and thumping a few on their rear with my 3-iron. One thing this experience taught me … javelina STINK! The other thing it taught me was to build a sturdier fence. [Actually, this was the best use of my 3-iron ever. On the golf course, it was never worth a damn.]
Javelina will eat almost anything, including the pads of our prickly pear cactus. Given the prickly pear’s 2-inch-long thorns, we have to admire their incredibly tough mouth and complex digestive system.
Also, if they can tip over a garbage can and knock the lid off, they will spread trash all over in the process of feeding on leftovers. As newcomers a decade ago, we learned this hard way before getting bungee cords to tie down the lids.
The peccaries’ main predator is us. Their sense of smell is very good, but their eyesight...not so much. So at night they easily become road kill. Also they are legally hunted in Arizona in January & February.
However, our coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions will also make a meal of them. I have spoken with a few javelina hunters who cooked and tried to eat one. The word is their meat is extremely tough, gamy, ill-smelling & rank. Yuck!
Our Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum hosts a herd of these guys. While they ARE there in a large enclosure, sometimes they are very difficult to find. Best you look under the bridges or anywhere where there is shade & water. That’s where they will be.
We here at SouthernArizonaGuide.com are working on enlarging our section on local critters for your enjoyment. As of now we have coyotes, scorpions, coati, big horn sheep and several others. Now that I can walk / hike, I intend to explore some of our rich wildlife habitat, such as Ramsey Canyon, this spring and photograph whatever critters I come across.