Wondrous Wildlife – August 2010

Wondrous Wildlife

By Vern and Lori Gieger

Fine Swine


wondrous-aug10Known by various names, peccaries, wild boars, and javelinas, or Chuleta (Pork chop) as ours is affectionately known, they look similar to pigs, but there are major differences. In Mexico they are known as javelinas (Spanish for javelin or spear) because of their sharp tusks.

Javelinas are social animals usually traveling in bands from 6 to 12. They are most active during early morning and evening hours when it is cooler. They eat, sleep, and forage together. Like most group animals they have a dominance hierarchy, wherein a male is dominant; the remainder of the order is largely determined by size. They are quite vocal; communication within the group consists of various grunts and squeals signifying, aggression, submission, or alert.

Javelinas have large heads and long snouts with thick coarse coats of dark gray to blackish brown mix, and band of lighter hair around the neck. A long, stiff mane runs down the back from head to rump. The adult male is up to 60 inches in length and is 20 to 24 inches in height, and weighing 40 to 60 pounds. Females are slightly smaller. Although they are not a small animal you would definitely smell them before you see them. They have a very powerful musk gland. The odor is always apparent, more so when they are excited.

They are territorial, defining their area by the rubbing of the rump oil gland against rocks, tree trunks etc., and people as Chuleta has demonstrated  on more than one occasion. Javelinas fend off intruders by squaring off, laying back their ears, and clattering their tusks. When fighting, they charge head on, bite, and occasionally lock jaws. Territory size varies greatly depending upon herd size, and habitat.

Javelinas are found in various habitats, from tropical rainforests to semi arid regions. They do tend to stay near a constant water supply. They are primarily herbivores, and have complex stomachs for digesting coarsely chewed food, which includes roots, fruits, insects, worms, reptiles, beans, nuts, berries, agaves cacti, and prickly pears, and in Chuleta’s case figs and carrots.

Breeding occurs throughout the year, depending on climate. When food supplies are abundant more young are raised. Females usually give birth to two young. Mothers den in hollow logs or hollows in the ground, retreating from the herd to prevent the newborns from being killed by other group members, rejoining the herd one day after giving birth. Only the older sisters of the newborn are tolerated near the young, often becoming nursemaids for the new mother. Despite the high mortality rate in this species, members have a life span of up to 24 years in captivity.

Predators include humans, bobcats, pumas, jaguars, and coyotes. For centuries, they have been a source of economic income due to their skins, food supply and as hunting trophies. The young are often captured and serve as domestic farm animals.

When fed by humans they lose fear of man. They have been known to rummage around campsites like raccoons and become a nuisance; they are not dangerous when left alone; under most circumstances they will run from humans.

Speedy and agile, social and vocal, cute and cuddly, Chuleta loves to nap on Vern’s lap. Javelinas are actually quite appealing, once you get past the smell.

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Ojo Del Lago
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