Collared peccary staring at photographer

Oro Valley continually ranks as one of Arizona’s safest cities, but a recent trend may have pet owners on the lookout. Through October and into November, the Oro Valley Police Department received calls about four different javelina encounters, including one incident where a dog died. The encounters occurred throughout Oro Valley, with two near the El Conquistador golf course, one in Sun City, and one near the intersection of Oracle and Magee. But the common factor is all involved residents were walking their dogs. 

Mark Hart from the Arizona Game and Fish Department says it’s not uncommon for javelinas to target dogs, but what is uncommon is four incidents being reported in a single community all within a month’s time. 

“Oro Valley is an unusual community because it is pretty densely populated, but it is so close to the foothills of the Catalinas. And there are washes running through the community, and that’s how they get in there,” Hart said. “People were getting rushed by these javelina, which were reacting instinctively to the presence of dogs. They can’t distinguish a dog from a coyote, which is a natural foe. They don’t have very keen eyesight, but they do have a keen sense of smell.” 

Hart says the Arizona Game and Fish Department is currently trying to account for this increase in encounters. But in the meantime he stresses caution while walking dogs, especially around golf courses, which can be ideal environments for javelinas to gather within urban

areas.

“We always tell people, if they’re out walking their dogs and see a javelina, to go the other direction,” Hart said. “Now, we’re not trying to blame the victim, because these things can happen pretty fast. But we have asked the dog-walking public to avoid those golf course walks for the time being.”

That being said, the Arizona Game and Fish Department maintains that the animals are a greater threat to pets than people. And that human injuries often result from pet owners attempting to break up fights between dogs and javelina. 

It is also safer to avoid walking dogs at night. Although javelinas are active during day and night, they’re simply easier to spot during the day. 

The Oro Valley Police Department has also recently received calls from people seeing javelinas during walks and feeling threatened, but without attack. However, OVPD Sgt. Amy Graham says it is difficult for the department to confirm specifics on these encounters, as often it was neighbors, not those directly involved, who made the calls. 

“If you have a dog, you need to go the opposite direction. You can use small rocks or yell to try to get them away, but do not go toward them,” Graham said. “If you see them, don’t get any closer, especially if you have a dog. But if you feel it’s being aggressive, call Game and Fish.” 

Graham says one explanation for the increase in javelina encounters is 2021’s historic rains. She says javelina thrive when there are more rains, which may have resulted in more javelina being born. In turn, the javelina may be aggressively protective of their children. 

“Another thing that may be going on, but we can’t quite get a handle on without the public’s help, is feeding them knowingly or unknowingly,” Hart said. “This is illegal in Pima County, Pinal and Maricopa. Something as simple as not cleaning up the spilled seed from your bird feeder can be a form of wildlife feeding.”

Halloween pumpkins, old produce and trash can all be lures for roving javelina. But the Arizona Game and Fish Department has also received past reports of individuals knowingly feeding

javelina. 

“The leading cause of javelina bites in Arizona is feeding, followed by interactions with dogs,” Hart said. “We encourage people to deter them if they’re congregating in their neighborhood by using adverse conditioning like clapping or spraying them with a garden hose. Anything non-lethal. Because we don’t want them hanging around and getting used to people.” 

Javelina, also known as peccaries, can grow as large as 80 pounds, and measure between three and four feet long. A group of javelinas average between six and nine members. 

“Appreciate them from a distance, but don’t encourage them to hang around,” Hart said. 

The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Tucson office can be reached at (520) 628-5376. The Oro Valley Police Department’s non-emergency line is (520) 229-4900. 

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