Adventures with Peccaries: pt. 1

I am currently in the early stages of designing a multispecies project working with the Cofán, an Indigenous people of Amazonian Ecuador, and two species of peccaries (white-lipped and collared) that inhabit the forest. Peccaries are medium-sized artiodactyls that superficially resemble pigs. However, these are American originals! They differ in many substantial ways from pigs, including in physiology and behavior. I will be using the blog to share some of my experiences in working with them. As it stands now, I have begun a pilot study, working with collared peccaries here in south Texas where they are called javelinas, the only species of peccary found in the United States.

This past weekend, I was conducting survey work down at Choke Canyon. I have spent more the 30 hours surveying the park without any luck encountering peccaries despite many personal reports of them there. However, I finally found them! I located a group of 9 total members with 2 babies. I am guessing that the babies were born this summer (probably July) given their size. Collared peccaries can become sexually mature at 11 months.

At the very end of my survey day, while walking back to the car, I looked underneath a large mesquite tree that is about 100m away from the car and noticed a new shape. This is a tree that I have walked by MANY times. There was at least one and so I quietly approached. The peccary silently moved off but I didn’t see which direction it headed off in (I was navigating underbrush).

I was able to track the peccary over to another mesquite tree that was about 100m away and lo and behold, I came across the entire group. The group fed continuously on mesquite beans. At this point, I was paying careful attention to how they ate. In Texas, javelinas are sometimes blamed for land disruption (despite prickly pear cactus and mesquite beans making up the majority of their diet). As such, I wanted to see if their feeding behavior supported this sentiment. It did not. they are incredibly graceful and delicate eaters (at least when it comes to mesquite). They glide over the ground, carefully picking up fallen pods and eating the beans before spitting the pods back out. At no point did they attempt to get at ripe mesquite beans that hung directly overhead; they only ate the fallen pods.

One thing that immediately stood out to me was how quiet they are. I am not referring to vocalizations, although they didn’t make any while I was watching. Instead, as they move through the thick brush that makes up much of the environment there, they don’t make a sound; no crashing, no snapping of branches, etc. Collared peccaries nest in dense underbrush and typically only operate (in this kind of landscape) within a mile of the nesting site, within a homerange of less than 250 acres.

They let me hang around without much fuss, contentedly going about their business until they decided it was time to move off. They did so intentionally and slowly. One (a female with a baby) began to make her way over to a densely covered trail and northeast away from the feeding site. The rest of the group followed behind.

As I continue my pilot study and eventually get down to Ecuador, I will continue to provide short narratives of my experiences. In the meantime, here are some pictures.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Interesting facts and they look so cute in my opinion💜


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