Like most dogs, Harper loves to go for walks. Harper’s Other Dad often takes her out at 5:30 AM. I am more often in charge of evening walks and, of course, the Dog Park. The days are getting shorter, however, so we’ve started to go out a little later. The later start allows us to enjoy the dawn. From a practical perspective, it is also easier to clean up after her when there is a little more light rather than searching for her ‘business’ by the light of an iPhone with a leash in one hand and a plastic bag wrapped around the other.
So, this morning we are out on Dawn Patrol, ensuring the neighborhood is safe from rabbits and that all the important bushes are just where they were when she last sniffed them. The dawn is breaking. I am slowly waking up and loving the low 60’s temperature.
As we make the turn to walk along the arroyo; that’s Arizonan for ‘ditch’; standing about 10 feet off the path are two javalinas. In the early morning light, I first thought they were coyotes; not an unusual sight at that time of day. As I focused however I saw two significant differences. These were much bigger than any coyote I had ever seen. Also, coyotes usually scurry off to watch from a safe distance. These critters looked at Harper and I and started walking up the bank toward us.
This is what I think of when I hear “Javalina”
Happily it is NOT what I saw this morning.
Javalinas, or peccaries; also known as “skunk pigs”; are medium-sized mammals of the family Tayassuidae, or “New World pigs”. They are found in the southwestern part of North America and throughout Central and South America. Javalinas usually measure 3 – 4 feet in length, and full-grown adults usually weigh between 50 and 90 lbs.
By rubbing their tusks together, they can make a chattering noise that warns potential predators not to get too close. Javalinas are aggressive enough in temperament that they cannot be domesticated, as they are likely to injure humans. In large groups they have been reported to seriously injure or kill people.
Harper, of course, wants to go check them out. I, on the other hand, am retracting her leash while backing away from them at a deliberate pace. Luckily my phone was in my hand because I had just taken the dawn picture above.
I was glad they were not making any hostile or threatening noises. I was less happy to realize they did not seem remotely afraid of us and, instead of running away down the arroyo as one would hope a wild animal would do when encountering humans, these walked up the bank to the sidewalk and made the conscience choice to follow us. Maybe they were just going our way. It’s hard to know for sure.
They were not increasing their speed and did not seem particularly threatening. I shouted a couple of times; it seemed like a good idea in the moment; thinking I might startle them to head off in the other direction. It occurred to me, however, that maybe ‘startled’ wasn’t really what I should be going for just then.
I kept walking backwards up the sidewalk toward the street. Harper, rocket scientist that she is, kept sitting down. I guess, fascinated by the animals coming toward her and unused to seeing me walking backwards, she didn’t know what else to do. We had words afterward so she’ll know how to behave in future.
Harper’s Other Dad met one on this same path last year. We always refer to it as the “Javalina Trail”. Who knew it was actually true?
When we got back to the street I backed around the corner. The javalinas paused briefly and then crossed the street. I was glad to see they looked both ways and crossed at the corner.