javelina

The neighborhood Bob Cat and a Video

Tucson suburbs often have abundant wildlife including javelinas and coyotes, the occasional black bear and mountain lion.  A bob cat (Felis rufus or Lynx rufus) frequently visits my yard in search of a meal, usually doves and quail.  I have encountered it in the early morning when I go out for the paper.  It usually growls at me then hides behind a bush.  At other times, the bob cat ignores me because it is very focused on its prey.  It is very skilled at picking birds off the wall.

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Bob cats are common in Arizona and occur in many different habitats.  They especially like the outskirts of urban areas because that’s where the prey is concentrated.  Adult bob cats weigh 15 to 35 pounds, males larger than females, and stand 18 to 24 inches tall (long legs make them look taller), and are 24 to 48 inches long.  They can jump as high as 12 feet.

Bob cats generally hunt at dawn and dusk.  During the day they may lounge in the shade of a bush in your backyard.  Normal prey includes rabbits, rodents, and birds.  They have been known to take down a deer.  They prey upon small domestic pets, poultry, and other small livestock.  They also prey upon snakes, including rattlesnakes.

Bob cats usually mate from February through March and kittens are born in April through June.  The kittens stay with the mother for about a year.  Normal life span is 10 to 15 years. Bob cats are generally solitary, but you may see a mating pair, or a mother and her kittens.

Bob cats generally do not attack humans, but they can inflict serious injury with their fangs and claws.  You should not feed wild bob cats because that makes them too comfortable around humans.  If you need to discourage a bob cat, make loud noises or use a garden hose to spray them with water.  If it happens that a female has kittens in the area, then leave them alone for a few weeks until the kittens are old enough to leave with their mother.

Here is a video produced by Arizona Game & Fish department:

 

Do not mess with Javelinas

JavelinaJavelinas, or collared peccaries, are a common sight in Tucson neighborhoods. They travel in herds and have large canine teeth which can do much damage to you. Javelinas have poor eyesight but good hearing and a keen sense of smell. Because of the poor eyesight, it is possible to get quite close to a wild javelina unnoticed, but if the wind shifts you may become the center of attention. A javelina may attack if it feels cornered. Clacking teeth is an alarm call and a warning. If you live in the foothills and attract javelinas to your yard, by providing water and forage, you may also attract their predators including mountain lions.

Javelina are herbivores. Their diet consists mainly of prickly pear cactus. They eat spines and all. Javelinas also eat other vegetable matter including fruit, seeds, roots, and also potted plants in your yard. Javelina kidneys concentrate nitrogen wastes more efficiently than other animals so there is less water loss. The kidneys also filter out oxalic acid found in the cactus. (For more on that see Can you get potable water from a cactus.)

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Why does an herbivore have such big canine teeth? These big teeth serve three purposes. The most obvious is defense. These large canine teeth can inflict serious injury. The large teeth also are used to shred cactus pads. Lastly, the canine teeth help stabilize the jaw when the javelin is trying to crunch something very hard like a mesquite bean.

 Javelinas stand about two feet tall and three feet long. Adults weigh 40- to 50 pounds. They are very social animals and travel in herds, usually with 10- to 15 members, but some herds with over 50 individuals have been seen. They keep track of herd members through smell. Javelinas have a scent gland above their tails and rub each other to transmit the family odor. They also mark their territories. Each herd is very territorial and will defend against other herds. Territory size depends on forage opportunities, but in the Tucson Mountains it is estimated to be about 250 acres.

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Javelinas are active at night during the summer, but in cooler seasons they may be about in the daytime. Mating may occur throughout the year and the newborns, called “reds”because of their color, are able to travel with the herd just a few hours after birth. They nurse for six to eight weeks.

Although javelinas look like pigs, they are not related. They belong to different families, Tayassuidae and Suidae respectively. Javelinas evolved in South America. Their current range extends from Arizona to Argentina and the range is expanding northward. According to current classification, the two belong to the same superfamily, but diverged during the Oligocene. The similar appearance may be due to convergent evolution.