Living with Javelina
Pecari tajacu or Tayassu tajacu
Though some people think javelina are a type of wild pig, they are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. Javelina are common in much of central and southern Arizona, including the outskirts of the Phoenix area, most of Tucson, and occasionally as far north as Flagstaff. Javelina form herds of two to more than 20 animals and rely on each other to defend territory, protect against predators, regulate temperature and interact socially. They use washes and areas with dense vegetation as travel corridors. Javelina are most active at night, but they may be active during the day when it is cold.
Description and Habits
- Peppered black, gray and brown hair with a faint white collar around the shoulders
- 40-60 pounds
- Approximately 19 inches tall
- Young born year-round, most often from November to March
- Average litter of two
- Newborns up to three months old are red-brown or tan and are called “reds”
- Live an average of 7.5 years
- Very poor eyesight, may appear to be charging when actually trying to escape
- Keen sense of smell
- Will roll in water and mud to cool off
- Scent gland on back; animals from the same herd stand side-by-side and rub each other’s scent glands with their heads; use scents to identify animals from different herds
- Need a water source for drinking
- Eat primarily plants, including cacti, succulent plants, bulbs, tubers, beans and seeds; sometimes eat insects, garbage and grubs
Possible Conflicts with Humans and Pets
Javelina will likely visit occasionally if you live in a semi-urban area near a wash or other natural desert. Javelina usually cause only minor problems for people by surprising them or eating a few plants. However, people should NEVER feed javelina. This can cause them to become regular visitors and lose their fear of people, creating problems for the neighborhood and often leading to the death of the javelina. Javelina occasionally bite humans, but incidents of bites are almost always associated with people providing the javelina with food. Javelina can inflict a serious wound. Defensive javelina behavior may include charging, teeth clacking, or a barking, growling sound. Javelina may act defensively when cornered, to protect their young, or when they hear or smell a dog. Dogs and coyotes are natural predators of javelina, and they can seriously hurt or kill each other. Javelina around your home may also inadvertently attract mountain lions, because mountain lions prey on javelina.
What Attracts Them?
Javelina usually visit homes to find food, water or shelter.
- Food for javelina can include lush vegetation and many flowers and succulent plants that people place around their homes. Birdseed, table scraps and garbage can also attract javelina.
- Water can be provided through chewing on an irrigation hose or by drinking from a pool or other water source around a home. Javelina will also dig and roll in moist soil during summer days to keep cool.
- Shelter can take the form of a porch, an area under a mobile home, a crawlspace beneath a house, or any other cave-like area. Javelina will seek shade during summer days and warmth during the winter, if these areas are not properly secured.
What Should I Do?
If javelina have become a problem or have caused property damage, see the suggestions below to deal with the situation. Do your part to keep javelina healthy and wild because their removal almost always means death. Work with your neighbors to achieve a consistent solution to the problem.
To discourage a javelina, immediately
Scare off animals by making loud noises (bang pots, yell, stomp on the floor, etc.); throwing small rocks in their direction; or spraying with vinegar, water from a garden hose, or large squirt gun filled with diluted household ammonia (1 part ammonia, and 9 parts water). The odor of the ammonia and the nasal irritation it causes will encourage the javelina to leave. Avoid spraying ammonia in the eyes as it may cause damage even at this low concentration. Ammonia should not be used around wetlands because it is toxic to fish and amphibians.
If the animal is confined, open a gate, have all people leave the area, and allow it to leave on its own. If it is still there the following day, contact a wildlife control business or the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
If you see javelina while walking your dog, avoid going near the javelina and quickly take your dog in a different direction.
In an emergency
If a javelina is acting in an aggressive manner toward people, is contained and cannot leave on its own or be let out easily, or is in human possession, please call your local Arizona Game and Fish Department regional office during weekday business hours. After hours and weekends, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department radio dispatcher at (623) 236-7201.
Remember, removal is usually a last resort
Removal usually results in the death of the javelina. In some cases, the javelina cannot be moved to a different location because it may have a disease or attacked a person. Research shows that most javelina do not survive a move to a different area due to inability to find food, water and shelter; being separated from the herd; being killed by a car, predator or other javelina while defending its territory; or reaction to the capture. When property damage from javelina is severe and/or repetitive, and the possible attractants have been removed and other measures have been attempted and failed to resolve the problem, the Arizona Game and Fish Department may determine that a javelina should be removed from an area. Also, wildlife control businesses are authorized to use repellents to deter javelina.
To prevent further problems
- Don't feed javelina!
- Feed pets inside or only what they can eat at one time. Don’t allow birdseed to fall to the ground and/or fence any bird feeding areas. Store birdseed, livestock feed, rodent bait and pet food inside. Do not leave quail blocks where javelina can access them. Pick up fallen fruit and nuts as quickly as possible.
- Keep water sources above the reach of javelina or behind strong fencing.
- Contain garbage and compost. Secure garbage cans with locking lids or by attaching to a fence or wall. Put garbage cans at the curb on the morning of pickup rather than the night before. Clean out cans with a bleach solution to reduce attractive odors.
- Landscape with plants that javelina do not want to eat. Their favorite plants are cacti, succulents, bulbs and tubers, and any plants that drops fruit or nuts. They will generally eat most tender, new plants. Javelina resistant plants [PDF].
- Keep dogs on a leash and/or inside a fenced yard to prevent defensive attacks.
- Use fencing to deny javelina access. Electric fencing is the most effective around gardens; try a single strand approximately 8-10 inches above ground level. It is fairly inexpensive and can be obtained at farm and ranch supply stores. Check local ordinances before installing electric fencing.
- Use block walls or chain link fencing (4 feet tall) around the entire yard. Patch up defective fences and gates. Use a concrete footer buried 8-12 inches into the ground or electric fencing to prevent digging under. Check local ordinances before installing electric fencing.
- Use block or solid skirting for mobile homes, decks and trailers, or use electric fencing for a temporary fix. Block entrance holes to any crawlspaces after the javelina have left. (Spread flour on the ground at the entrance to check for footprints.)
Possible Health Concerns
Rabies - Javelina can catch rabies, although they do not generally carry it without symptoms. Symptoms of rabies can include foaming at the mouth; erratic, hyperactive behavior; and/or fearful, paralyzed and lethargic behavior. If you see any animal with rabies symptoms, call 911 or your local Arizona Game and Fish Department office right away.
Anyone bitten by a javelina must immediately seek medical attention from a qualified health care provider. Whenever possible, the animal should be captured or killed and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing.
Distemper - Javelina are known to catch distemper, which can be transmitted to pets. Distemper is a viral disease that consists of fever, loss of appetite, coughing, and eye and nose discharge.
Salmonella - Salmonella or other bacteria that commonly cause food poisoning sometimes take a toll on javelina herds. Symptoms include diarrhea, inability to walk, staying close to a water source, and death.
Laws and Policies
- The department will sometimes remove javelina that are causing extensive property damage or have become aggressive toward humans. However, this is a last resort, and measures must be taken to remove attractants to prevent problems from recurring.
- Javelina are classified as a big game species. It is unlawful to injure or kill game animals, even if they are causing a problem, unless certain rigorous provisions under the law have been met. See Arizona Game and Fish Department Hunting Regulations.
- It is unlawful to trap javelina.
- State law prohibits firing a gun within a quarter-mile of an occupied residence or building without the permission of the owner.
- Check your local city ordinances, but most cities ban shooting firearms within city limits. Some cities ban the use of slingshots, BB guns, air guns, or bows.
- Refer to ARS-17-239 on wildlife depredation and Arizona Game and Fish Department Hunting Regulations for more information.