Moor or Less: Is that a javelina I smell?

A coyote trotted across the bike path just in front of me and didn’t give me a look as it headed into the nearby wash.

Coyotes are a fairly common site out here in Tucson, Ariz. I once saw four of them hunting together in that same wash —- moving swiftly in a perfect Army echelon formation.

No Wile E. Coyote in that group.

Bill Moor

Yeah, we see the occasional coyote in Michiana — including a big one who limps around our neighborhood. And at the top of our backyard hill, we will sometimes spot turkeys, a deer or two and, once in a blue moon, a fox. The wildlife out here is different and more plentiful.

Besides the coyotes, we have seen big horn sheep, bobcats, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, jack rabbits and maybe a distant glimpse of a mountain lion. And maybe not. I didn’t stick around to find out.

But the most exciting sighting always is a pack of javelinas. Never heard of javelinas? I hadn’t, either, when we first began coming out to Arizona eight years ago.

A javelina looks scary  — sort of a big pig in a werewolf costume. Actually, they look a lot like a wild boar, but javelinas are a little different than pigs and may smell even worse. They are from the peccary family and they have long coarse hair, hog-like snots and jaws tough enough to eat through cacti.

They are so ugly that — you know what I’m going to say — they are almost cute.

Javelinas, a wild pig-like animal, are prevalent in Arizona.

I’ve seen 19 of them so far (yeah, I count) — which is pretty good since they are primarily nocturnal animals. One of them — probably around 60 pounds — skirted through our yard and into the brush just past sunset the other night.

I didn’t follow for a close-up.

I’ve been told that javelinas, which are pretty much herbivores, aren’t particularly dangerous even though they have razor-like canine teeth that protrude from their mouth … can run up to 35 miles an hour … and are very protective of their babies if they haven’t already eaten them at birth.

If they are really ticked off, they will clack their teeth together. People have rarely been  bitten but aggressive dogs have been roughed up. 

Our next-door neighbor out here is a hunter, and he includes javelinas. Although a hunter has to go through a lottery, he has managed to bag a javelina for 13 straight years. With a bow and arrow.

“I don’t see javelina on any menus,” I said to him.

He smiled. He has mixed the meat with pork and he says it isn’t too bad. I’ll take his word for it.

Javelinas often travel in packs. We saw nine of them (two of them babies) crossing a trail in Sabino Canyon while we were hiking with our older son Steve and our grandson Brayden. Brayden was engrossed with them and went running after them before the big one in the back of their line slowed down and gave Brayden a look.

That stopped him in his tracks. But Brayden still thought they were pretty darn cool and later lobbied for a javelina stuffed animal. If it makes him have fond memories of his visit to Tucson, then I’m glad my wife shelled out the $25.

Nature is cool wherever we are. I think it’s great when we can live side-by-side with wildlife and give it a nod from a distance. It makes us richer for the experience.

I forgot to mention that a javelina has a scent gland on its back just above its rump that gives off a rather pungent smell.  The dominant male will rub his gland against others in his pack so they all smell similar.

Yet another fascinating fact that adds to my love for javelinas.

Hmm, maybe I’ve been out in the desert too long.