I was in what my wife and I laughingly call my office, when the phone rang, waking me out of a sound sleep. Reluctantly, I answered, expecting it to be a call from someone who was going to renew all my expired car warranties for me in exchange for copious amounts of cash.
Instead, it was my hunting buddy, who can sometimes be worse than a telemarketer. This time however, it was a good thing he called. He had an idea for a hunting trip for us. Since I am always up for another hunting trip, he had no problem selling me on the idea.
The plan was for us to put into the license draw, in Arizona, for a javelina hunt to take place in February. The month of February is a rough time anyway. The fishing season is months away and last year's hunting is but a distant memory. The Arizona Game Department sets several javelina hunts, archery, muzzleloader, and rifle, for different dates during the month of February.
Most folks, including our own Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) consider javelina to be nothing but a glorified feral hog, but they could not be further from the truth. Other than looking somewhat similar, having hooves, and both being considered invasive, they are miles apart in the animal kingdom.
Javelina are known by several names such as, collared peccary, skunk pig, Tayassu tajacu, or for you scientific types, Dicolytes tajacu. Although they resemble pigs, javelina are members of the peccary family, a New World species and native to the Western Hemisphere. The pigs, on the other hand, are an Old World species that were introduced to North America from Europe during the exploration days.
There are four types of peccaries found in North, South, and Central America, only the collared peccary has made Arizona, and occasionally Colorado, home. The collared peccary was undoubtedly given this name because of the “white collar” found at the junction of the head and body.
Normally, an adult javelina will stand 24 inches tall and tip the scales near 50 pounds. Individuals with herds that live near agricultural areas, or subdivisions with lots of green landscaping and gardens, can get as large as 85 pounds, if they are not on a keto diet.
Javelina have normal hearing but very poor eyesight. What they lack in eyesight, they make up for with an incredible sense of smell. With their long snout and large pig-like nose, they can identify other herd mates as well as detect danger, at great distances.
The javelina is a very social animal, living in herds numbering from four to 20 members. They communicate with each other using a variety of grunts and growls, and sometimes make a popping noise with their jaws and teeth.
A scent gland, about the size of a dime, is located on their lower back. This gland emits a very pungent scent that helps to identify members of the herd.
When startled or frightened, the javelina can emit their scent in a megadose of this scent (probably where the nickname skunk pig comes from) and flare their hair to make them appear larger before making a mad dash out of the area. There are always battles for dominance amongst members of the herd, and the battle scars can be seen as evidence of the sharp tusks the javelina carry in their mouth.
It is easy to see what a local herd of javelina has been feeding on because they are extremely messy eaters. They will root up plants, to access the roots, tear apart prickly pear cactus pads, leaving the shreds behind, and destroy your garden and plush landscape, if the mood hits them.
If you are looking for a javelina, and find a shredded landscape, you are probably in the right area. Javelina are nighttime operators, often raiding campsites and residential areas in search of easy pickings for a snack, while we sleep. In the morning, you can find evidence in your yard they were there.
Normally, javelina are in the dry, desert floor areas, all the way up to 7,000 feet in elevation. The typical habitat would include riverbed washes, a rolling terrain, brush and cactus, and a nearby source of water.
A normal herd will generally stay on a home range of about a square mile. Individual javelina live an average of 10 years in the wild although there have been documented cases of them reaching 20, and all those years will be spent in that general home range unless pushed out by an outside force.
The tusks and teeth of javelina have been rumored to contain gold deposits. Stories have spread about folks finding a crust on their teeth that appears like gold, possibly from rooting around in the gold rich soils of the desert areas in which they live. I researched this and found it to be not gold.
According to Gerald Day, author of the book Javelina: Research and Management in Arizona, “Javelina teeth become coated with a “gold-like” substance. The teeth have an accumulation of calculus or tartar that is deposited gradually by the reaction of saliva with food items. On some teeth, the tartar forms a thick hard shell that can be chipped off in large flakes and has the colors of gold, iridescent or brown. Skulls with gold-colored teeth make interesting conversation pieces but you do not have any value in the bullion market.”
So much for striking it rich while out hunting.
Javelina can be aggressive, especially when they live in suburban areas with human populations. Herds that travel with a dozen or more members can inflict serious, or even fatal wounds on humans and pets, especially when cornered. Because of their poor eyesight, javelina when escaping a potential threat may seem as if they are charging you, but they just aren’t able to see you as they barrel through the brush.
I have a friend who recently saw five javelina off U.S. 550, north of Ouray. Another report told of javelina on the bend near Tuffy’s Corner, near the Uncompahgre River. With global warming bringing milder winters, I suspect we will see more javelina in our area.
Here is to hoping my buddy and I draw a tag for javelina in Arizona. I have seen javelina, but never had the opportunity to hunt them. Occasionally, my hunting buddy comes up with a good idea.
Mark Rackay is a columnist for the Montrose Daily Press, Delta County Independent, and several other newspapers, as well as a feature writer for several saltwater fishing magazines. He is an avid hunter and world class saltwater angler, who travels around the world in search of adventure and serves as a director and public information officer for the Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse. For information about the posse call 970-252-4033 (leave a message) or email email@example.com