Javelina mit Totenköpfen in Sedona

Collared Peccary: Javelina


Pecari tajacu (Linnaeus)

Description. These pig-like creatures are characterized by presence of four-hoofed toes on the front feet, but only three on the hind feet (outer dewclaw absent); short, pig-like snout; crushing molars; nearly straight and dagger-like canines (tusks); harsh pelage with distinct "mane" from crown to rump; distinct musk gland on rump; two pairs of mammae, inguinal in position; distinct whitish collar across shoulder in adults, rest of upperparts grizzled black and grayish, with dark dorsal stripe; young reddish to yellowish brown, with black stripe down back. External measurements: total length, 870 to 1,016 mm.; tail, 12mm.; hind foot, 210 mm.; height at shoulder, 816 mm. Dental formula: I 2/3, C 1/1, Pm 3/3, M 3/3 X 2 = 38. Weight, 30 to 50 pounds (13 to 25 kg.).

Habits. In Texas, javelinas occupy the brushy semi-desert where prickly pear is a conspicuous part of the flora. Robert Mauermann says that they are commonly found in dense thickets of prickly pear, chaparral, scrub oak or guajillo; also in rocky canyons where caverns and hollows afford protection and in barren wastelands.

They travel in small bands of a half-dozen or so and seem to have a rather limited home range. In the Big Bend of Texas, for example. they were regularly reported from the vicinity of a certain spring where dense vegetation offered adequate protection. They are active mainly in early morning and late afternoon and often bed down in dense brush or prickly pear thickets during the heat of midday. The musk gland probably functions in keeping contact within the herd.

Regarding their supposedly vicious habits, Mauermann says that wildlife observers, in general, consider the peccary absolutely harmless to the range, to livestock and to other species. Legendary tales of the peccary have caused inexperienced hunters to kill them through fear rather than for either sport or food. It has been charged that peccaries will kill or injure dogs and that they are a menace to deer hunters in the dense brush. It is true that encounters between peccaries and untrained dogs usually end with dead or crippled dogs, but it is also true that in these battles the dog is always the aggressor, and any animal will defend its life to the best of its ability when attacked.

Peccaries are chiefly herbivorous and feed on various cacti, especially prickly pear, mesquite beans, sotol, lechuguilla and other succulent vegetation. In areas where prickly pear is abundant, peccaries seldom frequent waterholes because these plants provide both food and water. Some authors state that they root for their food, but Mauermann reports that contrary to the habits of the common pig, peccaries root in the ground very little but rather push around on the surface, even where the soil is very sandy and loose, turning up chunks of wood and cactus. Mast, fruits and terrestrial insects also are eaten.

Peccaries appear to be promiscuous, and there seems to be no definite breeding season. In Texas, Mauermann reports the finding of very young peccaries in early January and of half-grown young in February; Henry Hahn captured a young peccary about 7 days old in early May; another was captured in early November. Edgar Mearns reported the capture of young peccaries about the size of cottontails in late August and in January. The number of young is usually two, but litters range in size from one to five. The gestation period, according to Lyle Sowls, is 142 to 149 days (5 months). At birth the young are reddish or yellowish in color, and weigh about 1 pound (500 g). They are able to follow the mother within a few days, at which time the family joins with the rest of the herd. Young females attain sexual maturity in 33 to 34 weeks; young males, in 46 to 47 weeks.

In Texas, the peccary was hunted commercially for its hide until 1939, when it was given the status of a game animal. Perhaps a far greater value is in its relationship to range vegetation. Mauermann points out that ranchmen in western Texas are anxious to restore peccaries to their former range because of their ability to control (by eating) certain undesirable cacti. If taken young, peccaries make interesting pets, but they become vicious as they get older and are especially intolerant of strangers.

Tiny Tuskers

by Brandon Ray

Although 92 Texas counties have seasons for hunting them, javelinas unquestionably are Texas' least-utilized game animal. Compared to white-tailed deer, mule deer, and pronghorns - the state's glamorous big-game species - the javelina gets about as much recognition as the fourth-string quarterback! While glamour species are common in many states, the javelina can be found only in arid regions of the Southwest. Only Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have huntable populations. Of these three states, Texas has the longest hunting seasons and the most generous bag limit, two javelinas per year. In 42 of the state's javelina counties, hunting season ends a five-month run on February 28; in 50 others, the season never ends. For all these reasons, I think that it's time that Texas hunters take another look at this unique game animal.

About The Javelina

Also called the collared peccary, the javelina has a ring of light-colored hair that seems to form a collar around the animal's neck. The javelina's body, which reaches an adult weight of 40 to 60 pounds, is covered with dark bristles except for the ring of white bristles around the neck. Just above the tail javelinas have a small musk gland that can leave a strong odor when the animal is frightened or spooked.

Javelinas are not classified as members of the same family as domestic hogs or Wild boars. Features such as having only one dew claw on the hind foot and four teats, with only two being functional, exclude the javelina from the swine family. Javelinas are omnivorous, meaning that they eat almost anything available. The succulent prickly pear cactus is an important food source for javelinas throughout their range, making up more than half their diet. This thorny plant also fulfills most of the javelina's water requirements. This thorny diet, low in nutrients, is supplemented by green forbs, vines and grasses. I have watched dozens of javvies munch on spiny cactus with apparently no regard for the sharp spines. When scouting for a spot to hunt javelinas, prickly pear cactus flats are a good place to start looking. If the cactus pads have large bites missing or there are torn shreds of cactus lying around the plant, you can bet that javelinas are in the area.

Besides food, javelinas need adequate cover to survive. Dense brush used for bedding areas and to escape predators, such as coyotes, is essential. The most dense javelina populations invariably are found where there is a combination of dense brush and an abundance of prickly pear cactus. Whitebrush or bee brush thickets are favored in South Texas, but javelinas also will use blackbrush. In the Hill Country and Trans-Pecos, cedar brakes offer protection. In rocky terrain where there is little cover, such as some locations in far West Texas, javelinas will use caves on the banks of creek beds for cover and relief from the summer heat.

One of the biggest myths surrounding the javelina is that they are very dangerous. While javelinas do have the capacity to do bodily damage to a human being, this reputation is mostly bunk. Javelinas do have well-developed canine teeth, used to shred their favorite cactus snacks, but also capable of cutting and slashing. Most of the time javelinas will retreat from a person unless cornered. Most of the tales that hunters tell of "charging" javelinas describe the actions of a spooked herd running in every direction to escape. Spooked javelinas make a whoof sound when alarmed and occasionally pop their teeth.

Javelinas can be a problem when hunted with dogs or when quail hunters happen to walk into the midst of a herd. Because of the javelina's hatred for coyotes, which prey on its young, javelinas are very aggressive around any dog. The two-inch canines of the javelina can inflict serious damage to a favorite hound.

Hunting For Javvies

Because javelinas have poor eyesight they make a perfect challenge for hunters with close-range, primitive weapons. Bows, pistols and muzzleloaders make this hunt more challenging. On a trip to the mountains of West Texas in January 1998, I had my closest encounter to date with a bristled-up peccary. I could hear the noisy javelinas munching cactus all around me. From a distance my hunting partner and I had counted at least four javvies through binoculars, but there obviously were twice that many hidden in the thick creek below me. I crouched down to crawl through the thorny brush to try to get a close shot at one of the noisy porkers. The skunk-like scent of several javelinas wafting through the brush indicated I was close.

When I came to a small opening in the brush I heard the sound of my partner's bow sending an arrow crashing into the rocks perhaps 50 yards up the creek. At the sound of the arrow ricocheting off jagged limestone I heard the peccaries whoof and then heard the sound of tiny hooves clattering on rocky ground as they started to scatter. With an arrow cocked on my recurve bow I waited on the edge of the creek.

Suddenly two bristled javvies were trotting straight toward me. Instinctively, I drew the lightweight recurve and sent a broadhead-tipped shaft into the lead boar's chest at a scant five yards! The boar made it about 30 yards before he tumped over into a jagged yucca plant. A second arrow ended it quickly. The boar was my biggest yet, weighing in at 42 pounds field-dressed. In addition, he had huge lower tusks measuring 21/4 inches long. Today, his bleached skull sits on the corner of my desk as a reminder of that exciting hunt.

Spot-and-stalk hunting or hunting from a blind near a feeder probably are the most commonly used techniques for killing javelinas. Javelinas are suckers for the sweet taste of yellow corn kernels. A well-camouflaged ground blind built out of native vegetation near a feeder is an excellent way for a first-time javelina hunter to get a close shot. However, stalking is certainly more of a challenge. To locate tough-to-spot javvies I rely on strong optics.

Expect javelinas to be most active during the early morning hours and again just before dark. A javelina's grayish coloring blends surprisingly well in desert terrain. A pair of 10x40 binoculars and either a 20x50 or a variable power 15-45x60 spotting scope are my personal choices.

Javelinas often travel in herds, which can make spotting them a little easier. I have seen as many as 10 javelinas traveling together, but I have heard of other hunters seeing twice that many in one bunch. I usually start my search by climbing to an elevated vantage point and sitting behind a tripod-mounted spotting scope. I then study the surrounding desert until I find my target. In flatter terrain, like the low mesquites of South Texas, the slightly elevated view from a deer blind or just the bed of a pickup will be enough to get a commanding view over the thick brush.

Once you locate a sizable tusker pay special attention to the wind as you make your approach. A javelina's eyesight is poor, but his nose is keen.

Calling Javelinas

An exciting alternative to sitting in a blind or spot-and-stalk hunting is employing a high-pitched call to lure your target within range. Today some call manufacturers even offer a call specifically for javvies. This call resembles the distress sounds of a wounded or frightened javelina.

My first experience with calling javvies into bow range took place several years ago in the thick Brush Country of South Texas. I accidentally had stumbled into a herd of feeding javelinas and sent the tiny tuskers scattering into the surrounding mesquites. The herd had not winded me, but was spooked by my footsteps. I remembered the dying rabbit call dangling around my neck and I started to squeal on the plastic call as loudly as possible. Seconds later several members of the herd charged through the thick brush with their teeth popping and the hair on their backs on end. One of the bristled peccaries stopped in a small opening and I launched an arrow from less than 20 yards.

Whenever I happen to spook a javelina at close range, the ear-piercing squeals from the call sometimes bring the animals back or stop them long enough to take a shot. I would estimate that about 50 percent of the time this tactic works. Of course, the other 50 percent of the time the javelinas run as fast as their little legs will move! Calling blindly in open country has never been successful for me. Spot-and-stalk hunting is a more successful technique to use in more open terrain like the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas.

Texas' javelinas are much more than the corn-robbing nuisance that some deer hunters might consider them. Javelinas are a unique, special game animal found only in the Southwest that offer a challenging hunt for primitive-weapons hunters. Texans are lucky to have these tiny tuskers in addition to their more recognized, more popular "first-string" big game species. I think that it's time that the javelina got the respect he deserves.

Brandon Ray lives on a ranch in the Texas Panhandle and works as a freelance writer.

Javelina Hunting Regulations

Unlike many of Texas' big game hunting opportunities, javelina hunting is relatively inexpensive. For the last two years several friends and I have leased a ranch in West Texas for two consecutive weekends in either January or February for an annual get-together and self-guided hunt. The rancher charges us $150 per hunter for each three-day weekend hunt and provides an old bunkhouse for us to stay in. The rancher is just tickled to make any money off his bountiful pig population and we get a chance for a fun hunt at a time of year when other big game seasons in Texas are closed.

Forty-two counties in Texas have a limited season on javelina during 1998­1999 that lasts from October 1­February 28. In other counties there is no closed season with a bag limit of two javelina, either sex, per hunter per license year. Generally speaking, there is no closed season in the southernmost counties in the Brush Country of South Texas and in the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual lists seasons county by county.

Javelina beißt in Tortilla Flats

Lutz Möller

Lutz Möller