They're Back! The Invasion of the Javelinas

Contributed by Tim Ernster on . Posted in Sedona Wildlife and Natural History

Javelinas cross the road with hair raised at the presence of our dog.

It's a common experience for us humans to encounter many different kinds of wildlife as we explore Sedona hiking trails and the surrounding area. But wildlife encounters are not just limited to the forest trails. Wildlife is commonly encountered in neighborhoods throughout Sedona. Javelina, coyotes, deer, rabbits, snakes, skunks, and an occasional bobcat make up the most frequent sightings, but the most likely encounter that one can expect will be with the javelina. They are ubiquitous, and if there is one, there are most likely five, six or more close by.

If you are a tourist visiting the area, your initial reaction may be to think that these pig-like animals, the size of a medium-sized dog, are harmless. You may even be tempted to get a closer look, or even try to feed them. Think twice! These gentle looking and what appear to be slow-moving animals are deceiving. They can become vicious and aggressive at a moment’s notice, and can do serious harm to dogs and humans with their sharp incisors. This is the wild collared peccary, an animal that resembles a wild boar. It is about two feet tall, can weigh between 35-45 pounds, and reach anywhere from 3-4 feet in length. There are many reported cases of javelina attacks against both humans and dogs; they have inflicted serious injuries to humans and sometimes fatal injuries to dogs. When they are surprised or sense a threat, javelinas have been known to become aggressive and even charge the perceived threat.

I have lived in Sedona for almost seven years, and during that time, javelinas have been frequent visitors to my yard. In recent years, they have been very destructive and have uprooted many of my plants to feast on their root balls. It is common to see six or seven, or as many as fifteen javelinas in my yard at any given time. While javelina visits occur throughout the year, they seem to be more frequent in my neighborhood from November through May. Most of the time that I have lived in Sedona, they have not bothered me personally, and have been interesting animals to observe. In recent years however, they seem to have become more aggressive and bold. It probably didn’t help things that my neighbor would set out food every day, so javelinas would show up for their daily brunch on a regular basis. Recently, I have learned first-hand that they can be dangerously aggressive.

A case in point: One day, I was out for a pleasant early morning walk in my neighborhood, and cut through some forest service land to reach the neighborhood below me. As I emerged from the woody underbrush, I startled a group of six or seven javelinas, which were in the process of grazing on a neighbor’s plants in their front yard. They all looked up at me at the same time, and began walking towards me. I began backing up, and they kept coming. I then began to trot back up the hill from which I came, and the javelinas began trotting after me up the hill. I then began to run as fast as I could, reached the top of the hill, and turned around, assuming this adventure was over. But there they were, still running up the hill towards me, with the hair sticking up on their backs. I then began sprinting back up my street to get to my house. As I glanced back, they were still coming! I ran into my house, locked the door, and pulled the curtains shut. I was almost expecting to hear them beating on my door, trying to get in the house and wreak havoc. But, as I peeked out, no javelinas were in sight. But, what this episode showed me was that javelinas could be very unpredictable, and potentially very dangerous.

One of the javelina’s natural predators is the coyote. They are wary of them, which means that our pet dogs are in danger of being mistaken for a coyote. Javelinas may react instinctively to the presence of dogs, which they cannot distinguish from a coyote. The best advice for dog owners walking their pets is to immediately head in the opposite direction if they encounter javelinas. As the owner of a feisty Boston terrier, we have encountered javelinas on our walks around the neighborhood, and I have observed first hand how the javelinas become defensive and dangerous. I strongly recommend that you carry a heavy stick, or some other defensive object to fend them off. It’s also a good idea to make lots of noise if you are in an area where the presence of javelinas is suspected.

Javelina also known as collared peccary mother and baby in Sedona, Arizona.Although wild animals such as javelinas are interesting to observe, they are wild and that should not be taken lightly. If they feel cornered or threatened, they will aggressively defend themselves. The vast majority of javelina and human encounter's are driven by the animals need for water or food. So, some simple rules recommended by fish and game officials are in order:

1. Never feed a javelina or any other wild animal. Remove dog foodand water bowls at night. Do not leave any bird feeders or "seed blocks" on the ground.

2. Avoid surprise encounters with javelinas. As they are attracted to areas with plentiful, lush food (like succulent plants and flowers), shelter and water, minimize things around your home that may attract them. Put up a fence, and clean up your yard of birdseed and pet food. Ensure watering hoses, birdbaths, and ponds are not accessible to a thirsty javelina. Pick up fallen fruit and nuts from gardens. Keep garbage cans sealed.

3. If you encounter a javelina, move slowly away in the opposite direction. Keep your pets leashed at all times. Never corner a javelina. Make sure it has an escape route, and it will flee on its own if frightened.

4. Make loud noises to alert the javelina of your presence. Although they have an excellent sense of smell, javelinas have poor eyesight. Clap your hands, stomp on the ground or scream your head off.

5. Look for signs of potential aggression. A javelina that feels threatened may flatten its ears to its head, make growling noises, try to run away or charge, and may have the hair on its neck and back stand up. Be watchful for javelina young and herd members in the area. Adult javelinas are very protective of their young.

6. Contact the local wildlife control authority about troublesome javelina populations (such as Arizona Game and Fish Department). Professionals can help prevent javelinas from returning to a specific area (such as your neighborhood), and will capture an aggressive javelina as a last resort

7. Landscape your yard with plants that do not attract javelinas. Lists of javelina-resistant plants are available at your local nurseries.

Sedona has much to offer visitors and locals alike. Some of our most popular attractions are our beautiful red rocks and forestlands, and our plentiful wildlife. But care must be taken to respect the land and its unique flora and fauna so that your visit will be safe and enjoyable.

Also see: The Javelina - Sedona, Arizona's Famous Pig-Like Desert Dweller

Tags: javelina