On our southern Cochise County acreage, the local Tayassu Tajacu herd (javelinas aka collared peccaries) now numbers seven menbers. Two baby piglets (never mind the “experts” who swear peccaries are not pigs) brought the Border Fort Javelina Census up from five to the new total. The generations look like this:
First Generation: Bob Pig (boar), Brassy (bold sow), Mommy (sow with babies).
Second Generation (juveniles): Teener (a “teenager” girl peccary) and her brother Studlet (a young boar who has plenty of that testosterone thing going on).
Second Generation (babies): Red 1 and Red 2. Those are temporary names, applied for convenience during their “infant” stage when their coats are reddish in color.
The babies were born on or around December 6, so they’re now (on Dec. 28) roughly three weeks old and growing fast.
Now, let’s show our readers what the various members of the Collared Peccary Cartel look like. First, the boss of the bunch, the elder boar, Bob Pig. The boar didn’t much care for my position as I squatted to photograph his family. He didn’t stop to eat but kept pacing and stopping, pacing and stopping, which is the way these javelinas tend to travel at times…except when he was trotting…or actually running in slightly greater alarm…or standing still to think it over…or attempting to give me the old stare down.
Among certain creatures of the wild, making eye contact counts as a challenge. But hey; I’ve been doing stare downs since I was in grade school. More than once, Bob Pig tried circling around a bit to see if he could get behind me where I couldn’t see him. If he had done so, would he have considered charging? Not sure, but it didn’t matter; my head swiveled easily enough to track his quarter-circling movements. If he tried going deeper, say to three eighths of a circle, no problem. Eye contact.
I’d taken more than 150 photos by the time he got up enough nerve to start moving straight at me, slowly, eye contact all the way, who’s going to blink first? Note: These javelinas don’t blink during a stare down. They’re pros. But then, so am I.
“It’s all right, Bob,” I told him quietly, “but don’t even think about it.”
When I stood up, he took off in a hurry. Guess the transition from a 30 inch tall guy squatting to take pictures and a character who unfolds to six feet in height (counting the tennis shoes but not counting the stocking cap)…well, that must be quite a change in viewing angle for a low slung peccary eyeballing the opposition, even from forty feet away.
Anyway, he-e-e-ere’s Bob Pig!
Obviously, peccaries being no dummies when it comes to food, this herd recognizes me as the guy who occasionally drops a scrap or two. They really are smart; once our javelina-proof rabbit feeder pipes were in place, they immediately quit coming anywhere near the house. On the other hand, edibles we put out for larger desert scavengers (ravens, vultures, coyotes, javelinas, whoever gets there first) are never dropped near the Border Fort. We go wa-ay out there to do that, in lanes near brush where the wild things run all the time anyway.
What got the herd to stop by before the sun was down this time? Believe it or not, a few handfuls of eons old dry Purina cat food and a similar amount of dry dog food was all it took to get them to hang out in easy camera range. Maybe they knew the dog food was Kibbles ‘N’ Bits, not that cheap stuff. Hard to say. I do know they heard me walking; they came out of the brush from both sides of the trail before I was done dropping the goods.
Brassy, the sow who shows no sign of having borne any children yet, always lives up to her name. I settled down to take pictures. She settled in to devour a bit of dog food not more than twenty feet from my position. It’s clear that a wild javelina can become habituated to accepting food from humans; there’s a YouTube video out there that shows a guy feeding one from his hand. We have no intention of encouraging anything like that. Twenty feet for a nonproducing sow and forty feet for a nervous boar? Quite close enough, thank you.
And now, the bold one.
Brassy didn’t produce a lot of great photos this evening, but the boar more than made up for it–so here’s another one of that handsome devil.
Okay, so it’s a good bet that you clicked on this page to see the javelina babies, right? You’ve been scrolling down through all this stuff, going, “Where are the baby pictures? Come on!”
Hey, your patience is about to be rewarded…sort of. For whatever reason, every one of my photos of the little reds has been less than crystal clear. It could be the distance from the camera at which the photos were taken, but that doesn’t seem quite right. Certainly the relatively low light is a factor, but some of today’s pics were taken at 1/100th second shutter speed. If they’re not moving around much, you’d think that would do the trick.
One way or the other, you be the judge. Here are Mommy, Teener, Studlet, Red 1, and Red 2.
For some reason, no one ever bothers to warn me. My five foot nothing wife, however, is another case altogether. She shares our wildlife adventures with friends and family, and on occasion, one of them will say, “Don’t start thinking they’re your friends! They aren’t! They could turn on you at any time!”
Well, yeah, that’s technically true. We do agree: Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t try this at home. Fortunately, we do have a clue or two. Knowing her size and for that matter her femininity could put her at a disadvantage (though her voice is a weapon on the order of a nuclear device when she chooses to use it as such), Pam takes no chances. That said, both of us know how to “read” the critters with which we interact. When I’m out there in close proximity to the entire javelina herd (at distances ranging from 20 to 100 feet), I’m watching every one of them, paying total attention. It also helps that we know exactly how many are in the herd; it wouldn’t be a good thing to miscount and have an aggressive beastie slip up behind, now would it? I always keep count, can out-psych them if that becomes necessary, and so on and so forth.
Photograph overkill? Maybe. But I’ve been hoping for a photo op like today’s from the moment we knew Mommy had twins. Not saying I’m a proud grandpappy of the piglets or anything like that, but hey, online is the best place to store these things, right? (Until the Internet crashes permanently, but hopefully that won’t be for a while yet.)
I really don’t know what it was about today. Bob Pig’s nervousness notwithstanding, the casual acceptance of my presence by the herd was both remarkable and sudden. They’ve circled around while I was on the move in the area before, but settle down this much with me right there, aiming and clicking? They never worried much when I was hidden by darkness, taking pictures with the night vision scope/camera, but in broad daylight?
Not that I’m about to look a gift pig in the mouth.
In our opinion, the single most fascinating detail about the social lives of javelinas has to be the extreme closeness of the family group. There’s at least one YouTube video showing a brief two seconds of argument between Tayassu tajacu herd members over a bit of food, but we’ve not seen any of that in our Border Fort clan. In fact, they’ve shown nothing but affection to one another, a love that is palpable. Obvious. Remarkable.