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They are not pigs - the Absolutely Arizona story behind javelina

The misconceptions about the some 60,000 peccary living in Arizona
Posted: 4:15 PM, Mar 27, 2023
Updated: 2023-03-27 19:15:13-04
Javelina Arizona Game and Fish

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Javelina roaming throughout Arizona are often misidentified.

"Sometimes they're called pigs, which they're not," said Mark Hart with Arizona Game and Fish. "They're peccary, native to Central and South America. There's a population in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas."

Mark Hart is very familiar with javelina. He understands our fascination with them here in Southern Arizona, but he reminds us to keep our distance.

"Yes, I think a lot of people do get exited about seeing them," Hart said. "But bear in mind they have very sharp canine teeth, tusks as they're known. They can cause serious puncture wounds."

Usually slow moving, javelina can run up to 25 miles per hour for short bursts. They live 10 to 20 years.

Large squadron of Javelina

Javelina are mostly herbivores and love prickly pear fruit and pads.

They're known for their distinct odor, produced by a musk gland on their back. It helps them identify each other, and it helps them mark their territory, usually an area of one to three miles.

It is also true, javelina can not see well.

"Oh they definitely have poor eyesight," explained Hart. "You could be out walking one evening and see a group of javelina that start moving closer to you and you think 'I'm about to be charged.' Probably not: They smell you but they can't see you. They're trying to get closer so they can see."

A group of javelina is actually called a 'squadron'. Squadrons usually average six to ten javelina, but could be as large as 50.

Females usually have two babies per litter and can have two litters a year.

Javelina squadron with two babies

"The youngsters are known as reds, because of their red or tan color," Hart said. "They lose that in about three months. But like mothers everywhere, javelina moms will react very instinctively to a perceived threat to their youngster."

That's where the real danger begins. Arizona Game and Fish stays busy with calls about people being attacked by javelina, especially when trying to protect their dogs.

Javelina mistake dogs for their biggest threat: Coyotes.

"You will know when a javelina is alarmed because the hair on its back will stand up, they bristle," Hart explained. "If you see a javelina doing that, be careful."

"Yes, I go the other way," said Tucson Wildlife Center founder Lisa Bates.

Bates has a lot of respect for them. She also sees what happens when the growing metro area encroaches on javelina territory.

The Wildlife Center often cares for adult javelina hit by cars—and baby javelina separated from their mothers.

Baby javelina at Tucson Wildlife Center

Tucson Wildlife Center has had success, like with this baby javelina, reuniting it with its mother near the Tanque Verde Ranch.

"That was a good story," Bates said. "There's lots of good reuniting stories. The quicker you can go back and find the herd the better."

She has advice if you find a baby javelina separated from her mother:

"Best thing is try to leave it alone for little while and see if the herd comes back. If they don't then call us and we can keep the baby going. We will go back and keep looking for that herd."

And keep the estimated 60,000 javelina in our state alive and well.

"Javelina are just one of the cool species we have in the desert,"
said Bates.

A species that is Absolutely Arizona.

RELATED: Tucson Wildlife Center is Southern Arizona's only wildlife rescue hospital

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.