Our Tucson house sits in a covert but busy wildlife haven, an area designated eco-friendly to the desert plant and animal. The street is even an uncivilized, unimproved dirt road. Coyotes yelp in groups in intense southwest sunshine, sounding just like kids laughing as they scramble up the sides of the neighboring wash. Not kids – danged coyotes. But in the night, the bad-tempered, fanged javelina also comes poking about, trailing its young – if it’s that season. No denying they are incredibly cute in their warthog ugliness.
This tusked beast likes to patrol en famille, sharp little hoofs tripping across the road between washes, cruising warily between properties, sniffing for nice dead rats, foraging truffle-style with earth-moving snouts for tasty roots. We’ve seen their hoofprints left from furtive foraging in the dark of night. They’re unbelievably tough, blissfully munching on heavily thorned barrel cactus fruits.
They’ll also check trash bins for leftovers. My friend and neighbor once raised her garage door to a family of five. They froze in place while rummaging through her rubbish. They locked eyes. She said a hands-on-hips “Beat it,” and they obliged. She was lucky. They are known, when challenged, to offensively charge and gore with their impressive mouth tusks. You see, like famous Rupert the Rhino, they’re quite near-sighted. Probably they really aren’t so fierce, but they can’t see for their sniffing. Great olfactory glands.
Those who know say they’re as toothsome as the wild boar. In Mexico, local hunters of the countryside consider them a delicacy. Like pork. But know this – though variously called “wild pig” and “skunk pig,” they are not any type of pig. They are a variety of peccary.
This saguaro-festooned hillside neighborhood, sloping upward from north Tucson’s busy avenues, is a special place. When, years ago, entreprenurial builders decided to create an architect-designed housing development, it was immediately designated by its home-owners association as a de facto wildlife preserve. That is still in effect. And although the original houses may be way behind the times in modern accoutrements, they carry the cachet of history. And the nighttime view of the city is breathtaking.
The wildlife, of course, including the near-sighted javelina, is unaware. They’re low-movers patrolling close to the ground. (Occasionally we hear the bobcat on the roof – another story. Might he appreciate those distant city lights shimmering in the vast valley between far off mountain ridges?) We watch for headlight-lit eyes as we slowly motor the road, being careful not to run into any trit-trotting family parade as we wend homeward.
Oh. Do not try to tame or feed them. Because of their unreliable natures, you could jeopardize your well-being. Their near-sightedness could cause them alarming confusion. A good-hearted animal lover in the Phoenix area is trying to recover from deep slashes to her legs, which her neighbors attribute to her feeding the ungrateful javelina, and which she does not deny.