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Wild Thing : Strange Perfume

You might smell a javelina before you see it.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

As a young graduate student, John Young walked past a pond late one evening while on his way to a brush restoration site at a South Texas wildlife refuge. Suddenly, a horrible stench permeated the air.

“I remember thinking, ‘What is that?’” he says. “The smell was much worse than a skunk that’s just sprayed!” Moments later, Young — today a mammalogist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department — spotted the stinky source: six or so collared peccaries, commonly called javelinas.

Coastal sand dunes are shaped by the forces of wind on the King Ranch in South Texas.

Somewhat like skunks, collared peccaries — named for the whitish band across their shoulders — reek to survive. Since they can’t see well, these coarse-haired, hooved mammals release a strong musk from a scent gland above their tails to mark herd members and territories.

In Texas, javelinas generally range from arid West Texas southward into the Brush Country. They stick together in family groups of usually a dozen or so. Females can have two litters per year of up to five young. Within a day or two of birth, little ones join the herd.

Coastal sand dunes are shaped by the forces of wind on the King Ranch in South Texas.

Mostly vegetarian, javelinas dine on cacti, mesquite beans, sotol, roots, fruits and insects. They use their sharp canine teeth (tusks) to shred their favorite food — prickly pear cacti (spines and all). Though their natural habitats continue to shrink, populations of native javelinas — classified as game animals in Texas — appear stable.

Beware: Never feed javelinas. Also, keep all dogs fenced or restrained if javelinas live in the area. When ­threatened, javelinas will attack humans and pets.

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