We stepped out our sliding glass door and could smell them. The smell was distinctive. It was a dirty, musky, really nasty, unpleasant smell. The smell became worse when they realized we were on the steps and became excited. If you have ever been in the southwest you know by now we are talking about Collared Peccaries or Javelina. Many people call them wild pigs but this is a misnomer. The peccaries are classified in the family of the Tayassuidae because of the anatomical differences from pigs. The easiest way to differentiate the families is by the prints. The peccaries have three toes on the back feet and pigs have four toes. Another way to tell is by the tusks. On the peccaries the upper tusks are short and pointed down. On wild pigs the tusks will curl up.
The Javelinas immediately started vocalizing. Their vocalizing falls into three categories alert, aggressive and submissive. It is very probable that the peccaries heard us before they saw us as their hearing is suburb and their eyesight is limited. In most cases peccaries are not considered dangerous if you donâ€™t bother them. However, peccaries are losing their fear of people because humans are feeding them in their yards and in campgrounds.
When Javelinas are excited they can become very dangerous. They travel in bands of normally six to twelve, but, have been seen in groups of 50. The adult male can weigh up to sixty pounds; grow to five feet in length and two feet high. These slow moving animals can become agile and fast and able to drive off predators as large as bobcats. Their tusks can cause serious injury and these animals should be given respect. Do not assume they are afraid of people and you are safe approaching them.
If you would like to view a group of Javelinas look for them near permanent sources of water in the early morning and just before dusk. During the heat of the day they try to stay in the shade as they cannot pant to prevent overheating. You will know you have found a group if you can smell their musk and see an animal that has a bristly, dark grey coat. Look for a ring of white hair around the neck hence the name Collared Peccary. They also have stiff hairs running down their backs.
Remember to give these animals the respect they deserve and Do not feed them. You may want to celebrate your viewing of these interesting animals with a Javelina sign, Javelina socks or a Javelina cap.