Javelina: 10 places you can spot the smelly, pig-like creature in Arizona

Javelina: 10 places you can spot the smelly, pig-like creature in Arizona

(Shutterstock Photo/Gerald A. DeBoer)

By Trinity Murchie

February 21, 2024

It’s a pig! It’s a rat! It’s a … javelina?


Officially part of the peccary family, this creature has the shape of a pig with the wiry hair of a rat, the sharp tusks of a warthog, and the scent of a skunk. Although they look most similar to pigs, they are actually considered peccaries and are more closely related to deer, sheep, and goats! This relation is not only evident in their genetics, but also in their gamey flavor; believe it or not, these creatures draw a hunting crowd and are limited to two per calendar year by permit only.

If not hunted, these creatures live an average of 10 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity. There are certainly no shortages of these peccaries, though. With a gestation period of five months and no official mating season, each female javelina can produce one to six young — called reds for their red hair — each year.

Unlike pigs, these creatures are actually native to Arizona and naturally migrated here from South America, thought to have first appeared around the early 1900s. Javelinas, nicknamed for the javelin-like canine teeth, are officially called collared peccaries due to the white band around their necks. They have poor eyesight, average hearing, and an excellent sense of smell.

Unfortunately, it seems that the keener the smeller, the smellier the creature. If you were to smell a javelina, you might at first think you were driving the I-10 / 17 crossover just south of Sky Harbor (if you know you know), or wafting through skunk spray. Nope—these creatures are just very smelly, and use their stench to socially interact. Javelinas live in herds of around 10 (sometimes up to 20), and they mark one another with their pungent scent as a type of social cologn  look out Chanel!

Their scent comes out of a dime-shaped gland on their rump—kind of like a dog. Kind of. Imagine marking your friends by rubbing your butt on them. That’s what javelinas do! Other than scent, javelinas communicate with grunts, growls, and pops, and in cases of dominance dispute, they use their very sharp tusks in alpha fights.

They are largely herbivorous and eat roots, tubers, succulents, and prickly pears — true Southwest scavengers. They are not strictly vegetarian, though. They are incredibly opportunistic and will eat lizards, dead birds, and dead rodents when presented with the right opportunity; sounds like a solid episode of “Naked and Afraid.”

They are most often found in desert landscapes in elevations under 5,000 feet, near palo verde forests, mesquite trees, washes, grasslands, and any vast area that has mixed shrubs and cacti. In the heat of the day, you can find them resting in the shade of a mesquite tree or under rocky outcroppings. Sometimes, you can even find them under mobile homes (although I hope you never do, because they are known to cause a great deal of damage). They can run through walls (bad eyesight + tusks = the propensity to run through walls), get over fences that are less than four feet tall, and can cause great damage to your garden, home, and housepets.

Javelina: 10 places you can spot the smelly, pig-like creature in Arizona
Photo courtesy of Saguaro National Park via Facebook

Whether or not you’ve experienced the havoc of having the javelina near your house, this is a creature that is fun to watch — from afar. New year, new hobby; so grab your binoculars and a snack, and get in your car to check out these 10 places perfect for javelina spotting.

  1. Saguaro National Park near Tucson is the quintessential javelina habitat. This national park is loaded with all of the food that the Javelina enjoy and provides the ideal landscape for them to run and lounge around in. Hint: Where there is a saguaro with open land, javelinas may be lurking nearby.
  2. Catalina State Park near Tucson has miles of open land and a lower elevation, which is a dream for the equestrian as well as javelina herds!
  3. Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, just outside of Jerome, sits on open desert land with plenty of trees and water to make this an ideal javelina home.
  4. Kartchner Caverns State Park in Benson is large and generally unadulterated, as the cave was only discovered in the last 50 years. With all of that wild desert landscape and a limited amount of human visitors, this is javelina haven.
  5. Lost Dutchman State Park near Apache Junction boasts open land, Tonto National Forest, natural waterfalls (during the rain), and many saguaros. Saguaros are a huge indicator that javelina could be roaming in the area because saguaros and javelina both require either mesquite or palo verde trees to grow strong.
  6. Oracle State Park is a 4,000-acre wildlife refuge full of plants, food opportunities, and freedom to roam for the smelly creatures.
  7. Patagonia Lake State Park is home to many open hiking trails, a lake, and a desert landscape. While it is smaller in comparison to some of the other javelina habitats, it is farther south than most, which means Patagonia is one of the first good habitats a javelina can find when migrating into the Grand Canyon State.
  8. Red Rock State Park in Sedona is a nature preserve known for its scenery. If only Javelinas had good enough eyesight to appreciate the views! This is still a fun spot for javelina spotting if you want to see these peculiar animals with a magnificent background (I sense a photo op!).
  9. Slide Rock State Park about seven miles north of Sedona is the tiniest place on this list, but it has a running water source. This less populous location makes a great home for the javelina to rub rumps.
  10. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park near Payson marks a large area between Apache Junction and Payson where the ideal javelina landscape runs for miles. This area is complete with saguaro, palo verde, various cacti, mesquite trees, and natural watering holes. There are also smaller populations in this area compared to other parts of the state, making this yet another javelina haven.

Javelina spotting is a fun excuse to get out and see more of the glorious Arizona landscape as well as to learn about the rich fauna that comprises the southwest. Let javelina spotting be an excuse to learn more about your fascinating surroundings.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Javelina: 10 places you can spot the smelly, pig-like creature in ArizonaJavelina: 10 places you can spot the smelly, pig-like creature in Arizona


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  • Trinity Murchie

    Teacher, writer, and traveler, Trinity lives in a small town and enjoys gardening, cooking, and exploring all things bizarre. Catch her at local ruins exploring haunted histories, in quaint towns with creatives, or at the farmers markets hunting for unique ingredients. Wherever you catch her, be sure to say hi; she’ll want to hear your story, too.

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