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For The Garden

Protecting Landscapes From Javelinas

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: July, 2013, Page 122
A javelina in a desert garden

Coping With Javelinas

Javelinas are not true Arizona natives. Although considered part of the Sonoran Desert scene, they originated in South America and now roam from Argentina to as far north as Flagstaff, Arizona. They also are found in New Mexico and Texas. Javelinas (peccaries) travel in herds that range from a handful up to 20 individuals, although groups of eight or nine are most common.

Depending on food availability, each herd patrols a territory averaging 750 acres. Homeowners often notice javelinas in semi-urban areas as development expands outward into the desert. Many people find it entertaining to watch them trek through the landscape. However, because javelinas dig up bulbs, tuberous roots and grubs, and can tear apart spiny prickly pears, sharp yuccas or other weapons-grade plants, their foraging in the landscape may be disheartening. The following advice can aid homeowners in limiting destruction, while allowing co-existence with these unique creatures.

Javelinas like to dine on prickly pears and other succulents, cactus fruit and flowers, seedpods, bulbs and roots, as well as annual flowers and vegetables. Avoid adding those in favor of javelina-resistant species.* Realize, however, that “javelina-resistant” does not mean “javelina-proof.” Like all creatures, when sufficiently hungry and thirsty, javelinas will consume just about anything to survive. Exclusion by fencing is the only surefire method to prevent them from devouring plants.

A solid wall or chain-link fence that is at least 4 feet tall will deny access. Because fencing may block established travel and migration routes for all sorts of wildlife, consider your particular site and check local zoning ordinances before pursuing a particular fencing option.

Prickly pear fruit
For smaller garden spaces or patio areas, it may be more practical and economical to put up a wall or electric fencing. Arizona Game & Fish suggests that a single strand of electric fencing situated 8 to 10 inches above ground level also is effective against javelinas.

Another option is to encircle single plants with a sturdy cage, such as wire hardware cloth supported by rebar stakes. This is a good idea for all new transplants, including those on the resistant list, because javelinas are attracted to fresh, tender growth. As plants grow and become less palatable, the wire may be removed.

Here are some additional tips to help homeowners discourage javelinas from treating their landscapes as if they were walk-in diners:

• Do not leave pet foot outside.
• Rake up fallen fruit, nuts and seedpods.
• Site bird feeders or quail blocks within fenced areas, or use feeder styles that don’t allow seeds to drop to the ground.
• Prevent access to garbage cans and compost areas and put garbage cans out for pickup in the morning, as javelinas have a keen sense of smell and are active at night.
• When planning the location and design of water features, keep in mind that javelinas seek water for drinking and like to roll in moist soil to cool off.
• Never feed javelinas.

*Javelina Resistant Plants, Jeff Schalau, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension,
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