Collared Peccary

Scientific Name: Tayassu tajacu. They also are commonly referred to as "javelina", and "musk hogs".


Family: Tayassuidae

Range & Abundance: The collared peccary can be found over a large range, spanning as far north as southern Texas in the Unites States, and as far south as northern Argentina. Peccaries are not endangered.

Coloration & Morphology: Peccaries are wild mammals that resemble pigs. Dark brown and black hair colors the majority of the body, with a lightened area around the neck of the animal. Along the backside of the peccary is a mane of darker, longer, stiff hairs, where the scent gland is located. The hairs are coarse and thick. Juveniles have a slightly different coloration, in that their coat is anywhere from reddish to yellow-brown in color. Adults have sharp tusks. They weight between 35 - 60 lbs, are approximately 40-60" long, and 20-24" tall. They have poor eyesight but excellent hearing, and a good sense of smell.

Habitat: In South and Central America, the peccary lives in tropical rainforests. In the southern United States, it lives in the desert. Peccaries prefer to live close to water sources. In the desert, they live near prickly pair cacti.

Ecology: Collared peccaries mainly compete with other peccary species, as well as wild feral pigs, for both food and habitat. The main predators of the peccary are humans, bobcats, jaguars, pumas, and coyotes. Though they have tusks, they generally do not consume prey. Sometimes they will eat insects and small reptiles, however, their anatomy is better adapted for eating plants.

Behavior: Collared peccaries are group animals, and form packs of around 6-12 members, though there have been packs observed of up to 50. The pack eats, sleeps, and hunts together, with the exception of the old and unfit. The pack is most active during the early morning and mid-day when it is cooler, as they are unable to evaporate heat through panting. There is an alpha male who controls the pack, and he does all the breeding. The rest of the pack hierarchy is determined by size. Breeding is done all year long but typically increases in frequency with increased rainfall. The gestation period is typically 145 days, and females give birth to anywhere from 1-3 live young per pregnancy. Males become sexually mature at 11 months, and females at 8-14 months. Territory is marked by rubbing the scent gland against trees and rocks. Peccaries will fight by charging head on, biting, and locking jaws.


Diet: Peccaries are frugivores, meaning they are herbivores who preferentially consume fruits. Their diet consists of roots, small insects and reptiles, roots, bulbs, berries. In desert areas, they mostly consume agaves and prickly pears. Their strong jaws allow them to crack open a variety of fruits and consume the seeds.

Other Interactions: Peccaries play an important role in seed dispersal, especially among the palm plant. Due to their strong jaws, they are able to crack the tough fruits and ingest the seeds.

Observations at La Selva: During the trip to La Selva, peccaries were abundant. They were most likely to be seen in the early morning or late at night, scavenging for food. They were typically seen around buildings or in clearings during these times, but never straying far from the edge of the woods. During the hottest parts of the day, they remained in the jungle. The only species seen was the collared peccary. No infants were observed, and, contrary to much of the literature, they were rarely seen in packs. Often they were in groups of two or three, the largest pack observed was about seven peccaries, though this quantity was seen only once. The peccaries have a distinct scent, originating from their scent gland. It is a pungeant scent which slightly resembles onions, though on a more unpleasant scale. When eating, one can hear the peccaries clicking their jaws as they chew and rub their teeth together. The sound is loud. An interesting observation is that when something, such as fruit, is thrown towards the peccaries, they immediately ingest it. One would assume this could be detrimental, if something inedible was thrown their way. It was also interesting that they were not scared or startled by these objects. However, when this was done, they emitted a loud barking sound. Peccaries are by no means shy, as the students were able to get quite close to them. If a student approached a peccary too closely, the peccary would cease foraging for food and make direct eye contact with the student, a display of aggression. However, the peccaries never charged a student, which was unexpected. When the aggression display began, the peccary would remain still, and if the student moved closer, it would run off. Peccaries also display aggression towards one another. It was observed that when two peccaries fought over food, they would lock eyes, stare one another down, and make barking noises. One peccary recognized the dominance of the other and lied down, and discontinued eating until the dominant peccary had moved on. An interesting diet inlcusion for the peccaries is the standing roots of trees. Many of the trees in the rain forest use standing roots, located above the ground, to support themselves. It was observed that most of these trees had severed connections between their roots and the ground. The students discovered that it was peccaries who chewed through the roots, compromising the stability of the trees.



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