#OnlyInSedona Critters: All About Javelina
If you’re out on an early June hike as the sun begins to kiss the rocks red, you might notice a family of what you’ll think are wild pigs crossing your trail. If your mouth starts watering at the prospect of bacon, cool your jets there, pardner.
What you’ll find in #OnlyInSedona country are not pudgy porcines at all. They’re collared peccaries, more commonly known as javelinas. Read on to discover all about javelinas and how they play a vital role in Sedona’s ecology.
1. Javelinas and Boss Hogg Aren’t Brother and Sister
Hogs and pigs belong to the Suidae family, while collared peccaries go by the “surname” Tayassuidae. There’s a fabulous children’s book about javelina entitled “Don’t Call Me Pig.” That’s not even his brother’s name.
How can you tell the difference? Peccaries and pigs do share similarities, like a soft snout. However, you won’t find a pink, curly tail sticking out of a javelina hiney unless your 2-year-old draws an anatomically incorrect picture.
Javelina also have smaller ears and fewer teeth than their old world cousins. They also have scent glands on their backs that they use to mark their territory and other members of their clans.
2. Pigs and Peccaries Are More Like Distant Cousins
Only three species of peccaries remain, although their European cousins became invasive after arriving on these shores. You might be thinking, “Couldn’t we breed the two and make a hybrid?” Unfortunately, biology doesn’t work out that way. The two species are too different to interbreed.
I’m sure the question on your mind is, “but do they taste like bacon?” I swear to you my answer has nothing to do with being a semi-vegetarian. I admit, I used to like an omelet with a traditional artery-clogging side like any other red-blooded American, but I can’t tell you what javelina tastes like. I haven’t stumbled upon any javelina stew recipes, even here in Sedona. I imagine that means it’s not so tasty.
4. Javelina Are Multicultural
You won’t find javelina #OnlyInSedona — these fellas get around the block. They range everywhere from South America north to Colorado. You’ll find them as far east as Texas.
You can find javelina anywhere in Arizona except for two small areas near Phoenix. They do tend to leave humans alone, but here, they frequently end up invading gardens in search of a snack, anyway.
5. Collared Peccaries Stay Relatively Svelte
Unlike heftier pigs and hogs, collared peccaries rarely eat meat. They are omnivorous, but they follow a plant-based diet for the most part.
I don’t know if peccaries suffer from Type 2 diabetes. However, I suspect that they don’t because one of these critter’s favorite foods is the prickly pear cactus. Preliminary research shows that this plant might help control blood sugar in humans.
6. But They Occasionally Take Out the Trash
If you live in Sedona, you will eventually see a mess or two on trash day. You might also want to keep your rubbish inside your vehicle when camping to prevent more than bears.
We do have raccoons in Sedona. One of them appears as a character in Welcome Home, Poe, a book I wrote for charity. It stars a little formerly feral feline buddy of mine. However, if you wake up to moldy wrappers from our teal arches scattered hither and yon, a javelina may also be to blame.
7. They Don’t Get Too Large — or Old
Collared peccaries only grow to approximately 30 – 55 pounds as adults. They stretch from three to four feet from backside to snout. They’re not much larger than a collie.
Babies are called “reds” because of the color of their fur. If you observe a gang of these folks crossing the trail ahead, note how they arrange themselves with the infants in the middle for protection from predators.
8. Javelina Keep the Family Reunion Going
Javelinas believe in safety in numbers and keeping the family bond. They often travel in large groups — it’s rare to see one solo. If you do, it’s probably a male.
If you do run across a squadron of these fascinating critters, don’t panic. They will leave you alone if you don’t threaten them. Please keep a safe distance and let them pass while you snap photos. Don’t feed them — although not normally aggressive, javelina will bite.
Learn All About the Javelina — a Fascinating #OnlyInSedona Critter
Now that you know all about the javelina, consider yourself lucky if you see one while on a vacation hike. These collared peccaries are one of the many fascinating things you can find #OnlyInSedona.