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Mon, April 22

Unwelcome visitors: Javelinas and humans do not mix well



Javelina and homeowners don't mix.

Although they look like furry little pigs, javelina are wild animals that can deliver a nasty bite if they feel cornered or threatened, especially if they have babies nearby.

Because this is their territory and humans are the invaders - after all, people build houses in the washes and valleys that javelinas call home - it is not unusual for folks to stumble upon a herd of javelinas rooting around in their backyards.

How to get them out, and keep them out, can be a problem.

Arizona law classifies javelinas as big-game animals and protects them when not in season.

"You have to make them feel unwelcome," said Zen Mocarski, spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Even then, if your neighbors are feeding them, they will probably still come around.

As long as they are not cornered, you can shoo them away by clapping your hands or banging pots together. You can even squirt a weak ammonia/water solution on them with a large squirt gun.

A more permanent solution is to either fence off your backyard with something sturdy or get rid of anything they eat.

"Food is a great motivator (of javelinas)," said Eric Moore, owner of Jay's Bird Barn, a Prescott store that sells birdseed and feeders.

Mocarski agrees. He says his department recommends that bird-lovers put up non-spill feeders or improvise by attaching something like a pie tray to the bottom of the feeder. Keeping birdseed off the ground is imperative to keeping javelinas away, Mocarski said.

Birdseed also attracts mice and rats and rabbits, which in turn attract snakes and bobcats and cougars.

"You attract all those little animals and then you're going to attract all the things that eat them," said Erin Riddering, the department's game specialist. "It's a huge chain."

Moore said there is a new product to catch birdseed that is just now coming on the market. He saw it at a trade show he recently attended in Atlanta. It is called the SeedHoop, and is a mesh screen with hooks on the end of adjustable straps. It is larger and less expensive than most seed catchers currently available.

Because javelinas have great noses and like to root around in yards, they will eat flower bulbs and tear up vegetable gardens. In the wild, they normally eat prickly pear, mesquite fruit and agave, along with other plants and nuts. Javelinas also eat grubs, insects, worms, and even reptiles and amphibians such as frogs.

Javelinas are not true pigs, although they are the only wild, native, pig-like animal found in the United States. Javelina is a Spanish word meaning spear, which refers to the animal's razor-sharp tusks that look like little nubs sticking out from their mouths.

Javelinas tend to remain near year-round water sources because they cannot evaporate moisture through panting to prevent overheating.

In the Prescott area, especially during the midday heat, javelinas like to bed down in shady spots. Openings in the skirting around mobile homes or under buildings can provide a perfect place for javelinas to enter and cool off, so close them up. Trim up bushes that could provide hiding cover.

While javelinas are not generally dangerous to humans, they will fend off anyone they feel is a threat by laying back their ears and clattering their teeth. Their alarm call is a barking kind of cough. In a fight, they will charge head on, bite and sometimes even lock their jaws.

"Javelinas can be very dangerous to dogs," Mocarski warned.

Javelinas in rural areas tend to be more active at dawn and dusk. However, in urban areas like Prescott they can be active all the time, Riddering said. They also have babies year-round.

Here is what to do to keep javelinas out of your yard:

• Eliminate any food or water source. Do not leave dog or cat food or watering bowls out. Secure all garbage. Keep birdseed from falling to the ground. Plant toxic bulbs such as iris and narcissus instead of tulips.

• Put up a sturdy 4-foot high fence. If it is not sturdy, javelinas will just dig it up or tear it down. Websites often recommend electric fences 8 to 10 inches high with 120 volts of power. Some websites say electric fences are excellent deterrents to javelinas. But John Winsor is not so sure. As the manager of Olsen's Grain in Prescott, Winsor sells electric fences. But Winsor said his own father put up a three-strand electric fence to no avail.

"They chewed the wires right off," Winsor said - while the power was on.

Mocarski agrees that a persistent javelina will probably ignore an electric fence.

"Fencing is not overly-effective," he said.

• Try repellents. Winsor tells his customers to call the zoo for tiger scat, which is supposed to work on deer and javelina. Riddering says javelinas generally use their noses for just about everything. So putting out rags soaked in ammonia or sprinkling cayenne pepper in the dirt around flowers may help.

"But you have to do it consistently," she added because the smell wears off over time.

Mocarski and Riddering advise never to feed javelinas. It just makes them a nuisance and over time; they come to expect a handout. Once they lose their fear of humans, they can become dangerous.

Winsor said he has two kinds of customers when it comes to javelina - "People who want to feed the pigs and people who want them out of their yard."

And while he says he doesn't encourage the feeding of javelinas, he is a businessman.

"They come in here looking for a product, and I sell them what they want," he said shaking his head.

For more information about javelina, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at


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