Fieldwork Diary July 8-9, 2021

I am conducting research across Texas on Human and javelina relations. I am interested in how humans and other animals negotiate space at sites of encounter.

During this trip out to one of my fieldsites in the Texas Hill Country, I wanted to document the quality of javelina bedding sites (which you can see in the video below), continue to develop my relationship with the javelina group, observe javelina social behavior, and continue my discussion with the property owner about his relationship with the group and other animals that inhabit the property.

During the first day, my partner and I hiked to the top of the hill on the property to see if we could locate the group, and document the nature of bedding sites. We only had a brief encounter with the group at the top of the hill (not in the video) before photographing several bedding sites along the top of the hill. In the video, you can see the environment that the javelinas live in. It is mostly mixed Ashe juniper with hardwood.

I was not concerned about finding the group on the top of the hill because I knew that the group would visit the deer feeder and drip pond provided by the property owner. Furthermore, I try not to be too persistent on top of the hill as the property owner and I see that as their space and so acknowledge their right to refuse to participate in the study when I am in their space. Down in the yard, though, the javelinas choose to be around us and so I will hang out with them as they eat and drink. When I make them feel anxious, they let me know by “yawning” or by simply moving off. When they move off, I interpret that as declining to participate and thus do not pursue them.

Upon getting off the hill, we immediately ran into the javelina group at the drip pond. They headed back into the juniper forest on the hillside, where we sat for a while. Eventually, they came back out to the deer feeder.

The drip pond and deer feeder at particular sites of encounter on this property. The javelinas (and many other animals like deer and foxes) use these often. The javelinas will eat birdseed (provided to attract birds for photography) or corn (provided for the same reason). The javelinas choose to come into the yard (even with newborn babies: called reds) despite ample food on top of the hill and along the hillsides. There are juniper berries, prickly pear (a javelina favorite), and persimmon available in abundance, but the javelinas trust the property owner enough to come into the yard.

Much of the time at the site on this trip centered around the drip pond and deer feeder as the group spent quite a bit of time there. However, there was also quite a bit of rain on the trip and when it started to come down hard, the javelinas would make their way pretty quickly back into the cover of the forest. They would wait just inside the tree line for the rain to stop before coming back out to feed.

I was able to sit within a few meters of the javelinas while they ate. Every so often, they would give me a friendly reminder that they are not prey by yawning to show their tusks. To me, it seemed that once they felt they had made their point clearly, they went back to eating.

While javelinas can most certainly be aggressive towards humans, this is not often the case. They can be really flighty. In the video, you can see Porky the deer show reticence when wanting to feed at the deer feeder while the javelinas are present but also see the javelinas run away from a scrub-jay that is teasing them at the drip pond.

All members of this multispecies community engage in politics where they negotiate their place within the space.

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