Javelina, also known as the collared peccary because of their white collar around the neck, stand 20 to 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh 35 to 60 pounds. Although javelina have very poor eyesight, that doesn’t mean it will be easy to walk up on one to get a picture. Javelina are still good at making out movement, not to mention they have fair hearing and a great sense of smell.

Javelina prefer mesquite habitats with an abundance of prickly pear cactus but can also be found in semi-desert canyons, cliffs and watering holes near cactus. These animals are primarily herbivorous, animals whose primary food source is plant-based, and like to travel in small family groups feeding on roots, insects, fruits, bulbs, beans, worms, invertebrates and reptiles.

New Mexico has a vast amount of public land where you can find javelina. With that in mind, here are a few good starting points. First are the Big Hatchets; these mountains are not only a long way from anywhere, they have excellent javelina habitat and are very easy to glass. Second, the Florida and Tres Hermanas mountains south of Deming. Both of these mountain ranges are steep and rugged, but it’s the brush-filled sand washes at the bases that hold javelina. Hiking up the sides of these mountains provides a great place to sit and glass. Last is the Cedar mountain range just southwest of Deming.

The most important tool that someone wanting to see javelina can own is a good pair of optics. These animals love brush-filled sand washes along with cactus and mesquite flats, so the best way to spot one is by climbing up on a high spot and spending some time glassing the surrounding country.

Now that you have figured out a place to start, there are a few things that you should look for. People often mistake javelina tracks for those of deer, especially Coues deer, due to their small size. Javelina have four-toed front feet, three-toed behind. The third, vestigial dewclaw does not show in the tracks unless the track is in the mud. The front hoof is about 1½ inches wide by 1¼ inches in length, while the rear hoof is 1¼ inch wide by 1 inch in length. Track identification is essential to make sure you are following the correct animal. Another thing to look for is rooting areas. These rooting areas, depending on how fresh they are, can tell you if javelina are still in the area.

Oddly enough, javelina have been spotted as far north as Eldorado, just south of Santa Fe and along the Rio Grande at the Bernardo waterfowl complex just south of Albuquerque. So, if you want to see javelina in the wild but aren’t interested in driving that far south, who knows? In a few years, they might become a regular occurrence in Albuquerque or Santa Fe.

Ross Morgan is a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

(4) comments

Robert DeWitt

This article includes my first sightings of the word "glass" used as a verb.

Gerald Joyce

Common usage when describing hunting and scouting big game animals in the West. The use of binoculars and spotting scopes is required due to the vast open spaces.

Ann Lynch

I just moved to Placitas from Tucson, and articles about javelina should caution people against feeding or getting close to them. Javelina are charismatic wildlife, but they are dangerous, stinky, charismatic wildlife that come not in ones or twos, but squadrons of 10 or more. They are worse than dogs for getting into your trash cans. Our trash pickup in Tucson was at about 6:30, and we had to listen for the WM truck to round the corner before putting the bins out, as javelina key in on trash day and you cannot put the bins out early or they will tip them over, and are aggressive if you try to chase them off. I always enjoyed having javelina around, but it was definitely a mixed bag of appreciation vs risk.

Mary Beth Patterson

I have to correct one statement: in December, 2018, a javelina showed up outside the kitchen window of a house I was staying in at the northern end of Old Taos Highway here in Santa Fe. The Eldorado sighting was shortly before that. I have multiple photos and posted on Facebook at the time. I was renting the house from a friend from a few months before I moved into my new house. My friend kept a deer lick outside, apparently against HOA rules, and that’s what the javelina was most interested in.

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