Friday, December 2, 2011

The Peccary - Not a Pig

The peccary is known by a lot of names; javelina, musk hog, skunk pig and Mexican hog being just a few. And while these desert-dwelling North and Central American mammals may resemble wild hogs or razorbacks, they actually represent their own family of animals separate from the Suidae family pigs belong to, which originated in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Photo: Photo Bee 1
There are four species of peccary, with the most common species, the collared peccary, being found as far north as the Southwestern United States. Peccaries are usually 3-4 feet long and weigh 40-80lbs. Like pigs, peccaries are omnivores and feed on a wide variety of small animals, grass, fruit and cacti. They have fairly large tusks that sharpen themselves when the mouth is opened and closed that can be used as a weapon.

Most peccaries are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day, and live in groups of six to nine members. Like pigs, peccaries are unable to sweat or pant to cool off, so they spend the hottest part of the day near water sources or relaxing in the shade. The peccary gets its “skunk pig” nickname from the oil glands on its rump which secrete a strong, distinctive smell.

Though peccaries do face natural threats from jaguars and coyotes, they are very capable of using their tusks to defend themselves. Residents in urban areas are warned not to feed peccaries as this can lead to them losing their fear of humans and possibly becoming aggressive towards people.

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