It is kind of hard to pigeon-hole javelinas. They are likeable little guys with their squinty eyes, short legs and long snout. They have a cuteness about them even if it is only one a mother could love.
On the other hand, they do provide a target for hunters, but usually only once after learning just how bad they smell.
Officially, they are collared peccary and they can be found as far south as Argentina and north in to Texas, southern Arizona and New Mexico.
“Historically, they ranged in an area roughly covering from Houston to Dallas, to Midland-Odessa and to El Paso,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist Froylan Hernandez of Alpine.
Hernandez explained that over the years the javelinas’ range has shrunk to portions of South Texas and west into the Trans Pecos region, except for a couple of exceptions.
“There are also a few counties west of Wichita Falls with known populations. In fact, we are in the process of opening another county to javlina hunting in that area,” he added.
Another rogue population has popped up near Milam County in Central Texas in recent years.
“They certainly could have expanded their range to include Milam County. However, given that the area is densely populated and heavily traveled, it would have presented considerable challenges and obstacles. Even though javelinas are known to habituate well to humans, the road system and traffic may restrict free javelina movements,” Hernandez explained.
How they got there is debatable as to whether they just picked up and left South Texas or if they were given a lift by someone, possibly a student at nearby Texas A&M University. If that was the case it was definitely illegal.
“As for being transported/ translocated, TPWD requires a TTT Permit (Trap, Transport, Transplant) be in place prior to any javelina translocations. And to my knowledge, there have been no javelinas transplanted to that area, legally,” Hernandez said.
Hunters know them as corn vacuums around their feeders during deer season. They are also known as pear pigs for their propensity to eat prickly pear cactus. Like their primary habitat their diet is often warm weather related.
“Javelina feed on plants and succulents which are typically found in semidesert landscapes. These include various cacti, stool, lechugilla, mesquite beans, pricky pear and other similar plants,” Hernandez said.
This diet and the weather required for it to grow may be a limiting factor to javelina expansion around the state.
“Javelina are predominantly an ari/desert-land species. They can certainly tolerate cold weather, but probably not prolonged cold-weather spells as you see in the northern states. As for a cold temperature limit I do not know what that limit would be, but the colder climates likely also affect the types of plant available for food. Consequently, the types of foods they eat might be more of a limiting factor because of the cold weather,” Hernandez said.
For many years there was no limit on javelina for hunters. More recently TPWD initiated a two per year limit, but hunting continues to be allowed year-round. The limit was not so much a concern about numbers or harvest as it was to note that javelina are a game species in the state.
“Like most other wildlife species, javelina numbers have declined from historical levels because of habitat loss, destruction, and fragmentation. However, in areas with healthy populations, as is the case in West Texas and some areas of South Texas, javelina populations appear to be stable,” Hernandez said.
Javelinas are a small animal, standing only about 24 inches in height and weighing maybe 40 pounds. Oddly most hunters do not know what a javelina is. Because of its looks it is assumed it is related to pigs, but in the science world there is a lot of difference between the two.
“There are only three genera in the family (Tayassuidae) all of which are found in South America. The only one of the three found in the North America is the collared peccary. Even though javelinas and pigs share a common ancestry, they have significant anatomical and genetic differences. Consequently, they are placed in different families: javelina (Tayassuidae) and pigs and warthogs (Suidae),” Hernandez noted. He added they also are not rodents or related to rodents as some claim.
In Texas the little critters don’t get a lot of respect, but in Arizona they are thought of enough as a game species where they can actually be scored for several statewide hunting registries.
While there are those who would like to see javelina earn trophy status here it is going to be a tough hurdle because they are considered a nuisance species.
“In fact, I refer to it as the forgotten species. So it would be difficult to change the current public mindset. Not impossible, just difficult.I would like to increase awareness and eventually have them listed as a B&C species. With the guidance of other states and the help of Texas landowners we might at some point achieve this,” Hernandez said.
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