Flagstaff Hikers in the first small feeder canyon to Pumphouse Wash encountered a family of javelinas Wednesday afternoon.
Typically the Southwest’s version of this wild mammal doesn’t come so close to population area’s. Nor do they usually make themselves home in the high country, but prompted by the fires and lower yields of their usual food sources after the non-existent monsoon season of 2019 they might be put on the move. Development pressures down south and up the I-17 corridor may also be promoting some changes in behavior and habitat and range.
The Javalina (Pecari tajacu), or collared peccary is common across much of central and southern Arizona. According to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County, their typical range is from below the Mogollon Rim eastward to parts of New Mexico and into Texas and southward to Argentina. But that they have found their way into Flagstaff recently. Native to South America they have been on the move north for hundreds of years.
Long timers around town speculate the arrival and increase in javelina sightings is pushed by climate change trends, and by fires in Central Arizona and controlled burns just south of Kachina Village or Mountainaire.
The peccary can grow to between 35 to 60 pounds and have very close social relationships. They tend to live in herds of 5 to 15 animals. Rarely found by themselves they usually forage, eat, and sleep together. Both sexes actively defend their home range. Pet dogs are often viewed as adversaries and can become targets and attacked. Dogs and inquisitive people can be seriously injured of killed by a javelina.
The incursion of these guys into the popular hiking area will certainly be enticing to the curious. They can be cute little critters. They can also be dangerous, especially if they feel their food source or babies are threatened. While they may bite, their tactic of choice is to gore or slash their target with their pointy tusks – curved incisors that extend outward from their mouths.
They are usually shy, don’t approach them, leave a wide berth and don’t get between them or their family.
Mare Schumacher and her dog Zeke went down the wash for their customary saunter into the wash Wednesday. Zeke, a huge mix with a brendel coat is 90 pounds. He stands nearly 30 inches on all fours and when he stands up on his hind feet stretches to 5 and a half feet to his nose.
“Zeke and I were up on the mesa that is bordered by the Pumphouse Wash trail, the little creek that runs into the pond, the fence to Forest Highlands, and the little side canyon that goes off of Pumphouse Trail to the right into the Aspens and ends up at the fenceline.”
That’s when Zeke broke free and took off encountering the javelinas right after.
“Zeke ran into the woods off the trail – we were very far away from trailhead at this point. He was fixated on something. In a couple of minutes I could hear sounds – it sounded like a bobcat or something and I heard Zeke yelp once. I could see him running up the other side of the canyon with blood running down his leg. I called him and he came back toward me.
By now, I had bushwhacked my way through some trees and I could see him coming toward me in the canyon.”
“Although I was relieved that Zeke had not been killed by something – at one point I thought it might be a mountain lion which he surely would not survive – I was horrified.”
“I love to be outdoors, and I respect it. We are on the javelina’s land, not vice versa. I felt just terrible.”
Schumacher says after cleaning the wound the veterinarian used 20 staples to close the wound.
Schumacher said, “The vet explained it is a goring (rather than biting) wound that went all the way through his flank.”
It turns out that although they are rare there have been javelina sightings over the years.
Longtime Flagstaff resident, Tony Norris told The Meteor, “I first remember seeing Havelina in northern Arizona maybe 20 years ago. Eastbound on I 40 coming up the Ashfork hill I saw a small group of Havelina‘s in the median of I40. I know they were appearing around Continental country club at least 10-12 years ago. I recall 30 years ago my friend Warren Miller said they were making an appearance around Prescott. I didn’t see any in Doney Park.”
Howie Hearn also a long time resident recalled, “Some neighbors to the north (Slayton Ranch Rd.) had a female nesting under their deck a couple of years back.”
Arizona Game and Fish and the US Forest Service office have not yet returned calls.
This is an ongoing story and will be updated.