Javelinas in the Garden: Understanding and Managing the Wild Pig Dilemma

Introduction to the Javelina

Often mistaken for wild boars or domestic pigs, javelinas are unique creatures that can present challenges to gardeners and homeowners. Understanding what a javelina is and recognizing their habits and preferences can provide insights into managing their presence in your garden.

Defining the Javelina

The javelina, or collared peccary, is a medium-sized mammal found in the southwestern United States, Central America, and South America. They are not pigs but belong to the Tayassuidae family, which is separate from the pig family (Suidae).

Physical Characteristics

Javelinas are stout-bodied with coarse, grizzled hair, and a distinct collar of whitish fur around the neck. Their legs are short, and they have sharp, curved tusks in both upper and lower jaws.

Social Behavior

Javelinas are highly social animals, often living in family groups known as squadrons. They communicate through various sounds, body postures, and even scent, marking their territory with scent glands near their eyes and back.

Feeding Habits

Javelinas are omnivorous and will eat a wide range of food, from plant material like roots, seeds, and fruits to small insects and vertebrates. This varied diet can lead them to forage in gardens.

Why Javelinas Are Attracted to Gardens

Gardens can be attractive to javelinas for various reasons. Understanding these attractions can be key to devising strategies to deter them without resorting to harmful methods.

Availability of Food

Lush gardens often provide a feast for javelinas. They are particularly drawn to succulent plants, bulbs, and fallen fruits.

Shelter and Cover

The natural cover provided by gardens, including thick shrubs and trees, offers shelter and safety for these creatures, particularly in urban or suburban settings where natural cover may be limited.

Water Sources

Gardens with ponds, fountains, or even accessible hose bibs can provide essential water sources, particularly in arid regions where javelinas are commonly found.

Strategies for Managing Javelinas

Successfully managing javelinas in your garden requires a combination of understanding their behavior and employing practical, humane strategies.

Plant Selection

Choosing plants that are less appealing to javelinas, such as those with strong odors or thorns, can reduce the attraction of your garden. Planting a barrier of such unappealing plants around the garden’s perimeter may further deter them.

Fencing and Enclosures

Physical barriers such as fencing can be quite effective. Javelinas are poor climbers, and a sturdy fence can keep them out. However, they can dig, so embedding the fence several inches into the ground is recommended.

Removing Attractants

Regularly clearing fallen fruit and securing compost piles can reduce the allure of your garden. Additionally, avoiding over-watering can prevent the soft soil that javelinas like to root in.

Non-lethal Deterrents

Devices such as motion-activated sprinklers or lights can startle javelinas and deter them from entering. Scare tactics like these are often more humane and sustainable in the long run.

Cooperation with Neighbors

In areas where javelinas are common, cooperating with neighbors to adopt similar management strategies can enhance effectiveness. Shared fencing or community education programs can foster broader support.

Understanding Javelina Laws and Regulations

Managing wildlife, including javelinas, often involves legal and ethical considerations.

Federal and State Regulations

In many areas, javelinas are protected under wildlife laws. Understanding local regulations regarding trapping, relocation, or other interventions is essential to ensure compliance.

Ethical Considerations

Emphasizing humane and non-lethal strategies aligns with broader ethical considerations regarding our relationship with wildlife. Encouraging an attitude of coexistence rather than confrontation can foster a more harmonious interaction with these intriguing creatures.


Javelinas are fascinating animals that can present challenges to gardeners. However, by understanding their behavior, needs, and preferences, we can devise strategies to manage their presence without resorting to harmful or lethal means. The key lies in respecting their role in the ecosystem and finding ways to coexist, even in our carefully tended gardens.