By Robert Samuelsen

They won’t win a beauty contest, nor would they be considered a charismatic critter, but the collared peccary is commonly seen and is very much part of the arid southwest lore. Peccaries are territorial and mark their range using a scent gland on their posterior. By rubbing rocks and trees, they create an odiferous barrier of pungent musk to keep predators away. They also share their scents with family members to keep the herd together. Nothing like a common stench to command brotherly love!

Peccaries are very family oriented. They play, root, and sleep together in a family unit. Rarely do you see a lone critter and sometimes the family group can be as many as 40 or 50 strong. Males and females lead the herd in unison and communicate with each other with a series of grunts, barks, coughs, huffs, woofs, and clacks. Youngsters often play and jump while the parents forage for their favorite roots, nuts, or cactus. Similar to other ungulates, peccaries have a complex three chambered stomach that is efficient at digesting just about anything – much like a DeLorean’s flux capacitor. As omnivores, they’ll also eat carrion and small creatures if the opportunity presents itself, but the local favorite food is the cactus. Anything that eats cactus pods and fruit – spines and all – gets my instant respect!

Also known as javalina, these pig-like creatures are not pigs, hogs, or razorbacks. The pig and its feral cousins are stowaways from Eurasia/Africa from about 600 years ago while the javalina are native to the Americas. Although they likely share a common ancient ancestor, it appears pigs ended up in Eurasia/Africa and peccaries in the Americas. Even so, peccary fossils show up on every continent except Australia and Antarctica (and who knows what’s under all that ice!). There are distinct physical differences too. Peccary tails are not visible, their ears are small, they have fewer teeth and toes, and of course, peccaries have scent glands. Pigs don’t! However, both species are highly intelligent and adaptable to urbanization and habitat encroachment.

We have a javalina family that’s moved into our neighborhood. With a smorgasbord of landscape vegetation to taste, they are frequently found rooting out prickly pear, agaves, and aloe vera from our yards. At Halloween, no pumpkin is safe from a javalina! Recently, I had to wait for one to eat its herbaceous dessert before I could play the second hole at the Del Lago golf course and the other night, I cornered an entire family while taking out the trash. They have razor sharp teeth and don’t like to be cornered so I gave them space and quietly scooted them away.

Before moving to Arizona, one of my employees said it was his dream to hunt javalinas in Arizona. After moving here, I asked some of my hunter friends if javalina were good eating. I was thinking about bacon and ham hocks, but their descriptions of taste included “rat-like unwiped butt” (his words not mine), an 80 lb. squirrel, and one said even his dog wouldn’t eat it. That’s enough of a description to eradicate my hunger pangs. I think I’ll stick to domestic sources of meat – like a Big Mac or T-bone steak!

Rob Samuelsen is an executive and adventurer supported by his long-suffering but supportive wife!

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