When you visit the Grand Canyon, you might run across collared peccary. Better known as javelina, these wild animals are also referred to as musk hogs. The javelina’s young may be called reds, as this hue tinges the young javelina’s fur during this stage of development. Whatever you may call them, javelinas are not considered pigs, even though they look like them. The hoofed animals may closely resemble pigs, but they are of a different ilk.
Classification of the Javelina
While javelinas are part of the Tayassuidae family of animals, pigs are part of the Suidae family. Javelinas came from a common ancestor about 35 million years ago in South-Eastern Asia. The ancestors of javelinas journeyed over the Bering Land Bridge, and migrated to Central and South America.
While three species of the animals can be found in the Americas, only one species, Pecari tajacu lives in the US. These species have found a home in Grand Canyon National Park. Because the park is thought to be the northernmost part of the animals’ range, javelinas are rarely spotted by visitors to the park.
Javelinas are highly socialized and live in herds called squadrons. Usually a dozen javelinas comprise a squadron. Each squadron may range over a few hundred acres. It just depends on the availability of water and food. When they sleep, javelinas usually slumber in overhangs or beneath tree canopies.
When a javelina senses a threat, it signals the other members in its squadron by grunting or woofing. Juveniles, especially, are captured by canyon predators, such as mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats. While the animals usually run from danger, they can also aggressively fight back with their tusk-like canine teeth, if needed.
Calling the Desert Home
Indeed, the Grand Canyon collared peccary are suited for the desert terrain, as they like to feast on yucca plants and cacti. Because they are chiefly herbivores, Javelina feed on a variety of desert plants, including the fruits, pads, and stems of cacti. They also like the flowers, roots, and hearts of agave plants.
While javelina breed any time of the year, they usually give birth in the summer. That is when the availability of forage is greater. They begin breeding at one year old, and continue to breed throughout their lives. Females give birth to one or two young, which usually are about one pound at birth.
Some litters, however, can contain as many as five babies. The young javelinas stay close to their mother for about three months after birth. They start eating solid food at about eight weeks, and lose their red fur when they turn four months of age. Once they become adults, they will acquire a gray and dark brown pelage.
Collared Peccary Sense of Smell
The animals rely heavily on their strong sense of smell, thus the name musk hog. Their sense of smell makes up for their poor eyesight. Scent glands, located on the animals’ back, lie about eight inches from the base of the tail.
If you take one of the Grand Canyon tours featured by Grand Canyon Destinations, you may or may not see this animal. It just depends on where you end up visiting or staying. Seeing the animals can be exciting. However, stay a safe distance from any wildlife in the park, and take along your binoculars.