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Javelina are peccaries that greatly resemble pigs. This Spanish name is pronounced "Have a LEE nuh". Well, approximately. The scuttlebutt on them has it that they tend to be vicious when cornered, and when protecting their young. They have tusks (actually, their canine teeth are an inch or two long). These can be used to rip a chunk of flesh off anybody they see as a threat. I would guess an adult stands about two and a half feet high (not quite a meter) and weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred pounds.

Now that you know what we are dealing with, I'll tell you my story.

For some years we used to hear clunking around under our mobile home at night. Something was hitting the plumbing underneath. We couldn't figure out what rats were large enough to make that kind of noise, but for the time being, it remained a mystery. The other thing we noticed is what happened when I cleaned out the refrigerator. Since we live in the country, I would have had to load up a lot of very stinky food in my car and take it to the dump. I declined to do that, and simply found a place where I could leave it out. For some reason, it would disappear shortly thereafter.

Then came the winter of 2000. We had maybe a half inch of rain the entire rainy season, when we normally would have had 4 to 5 inches. The cactus began to wilt. By summer, things were in pretty bad shape. That's when we started to get our visitors. It was a family of five. At first, they would go down by the aviaries, and since I wasn't sure exactly what they like to eat, I would yell at them and try to get them to go away. By far the most effective tactic was to drive the car down there and honk at them. That was guaranteed to send them packing around the barn.

But after I got over my initial surprise at their presence so close to humans, I decided I wanted to try to photograph them. So one fine day, I threw a couple of banana peels on the ground, sat down on a railroad tie across the open space from them with a camera and a couple of telephoto lenses, and waited. Sure enough, the javelina showed up. I got a lot of photos, and some of them are in my animals photos section. They showed absolutely no fear of me as long as I was reasonably quiet.

Not long after, I decided to clean out my refrigerator. When I got to my usual spot to dump my second load, I saw all five, and they all settled down on the ground in a big circle around me to wait patiently while I dumped the stuff. They were all maybe three feet away at the most. So I dumped, and then walked off, and they very quietly got up, went over there, and helped themselves!

After awhile, I learned to recognize a certain bark that our dog would use. It said, "Mom! The javelina are back!" At about that same time, I noticed that they were greatly enjoying scooping out a nice little place in the dirt under the mobile home, and lying down to rest. Eventually, the dog would ignore them as long as they were quiet.

But the problem of them going over by the aviaries continued, and I wanted to figure out what they were doing. Well, I figured it out, all right. They were snitching the grain and bird feed I was leaving out for my two pigeons! I couldn't have that, so I awaited my opportunity. One day, I had just dumped the feed on the ground, and here was one fellow right next to me, less than an arm's length away, ready to help himself. This particular individual's eyes were on the side of his head enough that he couldn't see me when looking straight on. So I just took the small bucket I was holding, and swiped him across the nose. He trotted off, in no particular hurry. I went about my business, and scarcely a minute later, here he comes again! This time, I approached from the side, and he once more trotted off. That is the last time he tried going after my bird feed, as far as I know.

Not long after, the rains started, and they found other things to eat. But I still see them if I drop fruit seeds or other things on the ground, and they wander by occasionally.

Other than the fact that they were perfectly willing to eat the bird food and the dog food and my prize imported cactus if they felt like it, they were very well behaved neighbors indeed! I enjoyed having them, and I miss them.

Maribeth has had a few encounters with them also. To see her photographs of them, and read about them (when she and I get a round tuit), please go to her page.

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