Imagine the scene; it is a cool desert evening six months after our arrival in the desert. We are sitting on the front patio chatting and enjoying a cocktail together when we hear a strange rustling to our south. Tentatively looking around, we see five pig-like creatures walking our way, unafraid of us but at the same time unwilling to come too close. We’ve heard tales of these beasts, how one gored a dog in the wash one day and laid open its entrails, how they eat the neighbors’ landscaping, how their stench precedes their arrival. However, being an animal lover from way back, I reserved judgment. This desert creature, named for its razor sharp tusks, is the javelina.
Although the javelina resembles a pig, and certainly snorts and smells like one, it is actually a collared peccary. Peccaries are more slender and 30-50 pounds smaller than pigs, have longer, thinner legs and smaller hooves. As a species, they inhabit a large range from the desert southwest through Mexico Argentina
Yes, I was a bad desert dweller and decided to reward the javelinas’ more and more frequent visits with sweet carrots from the refrigerator. Before you get mad, I realized the error of my ways and do not do this any more. I stopped when I discovered that each winter, some testosterone-challenged idiots get to scour the state and hunt the poor things. I was afraid that by feeding them, I was removing their fear of humans, which they should obviously have. After a few weeks of scratching on our bedroom door, they stopped coming to the patio as well. We still saw them from a distance often and even if we did not witness them personally, their telltale tracks alerted us to their presence the night before. However, sadly, like the cows that used to roam freely and the wild horses that did the same, we don’t see them much anymore.
I miss the javelinas. They had personality and spunk. We could tell them apart and pick up on who among them called the shots and who followed. In the two plus years since we arrived here, we see the wilderness receding and development quickly and insidiously encroaching. Our property taxes have doubled, and will most likely triple as the powers that be force upon us unneeded water, fire, and school districts (we have a well, which they would condemn if they are successful and we contract the others independently.) These are all lobbied by the same powerful developers that are inhibiting our quality of life and that of the javelina and other desert denizens. Someday, we might just have to pretend to farm in another place, find somewhere else to plant that invisible “Don’t Tread On Me” flag.