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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ:

Shift In Javelina Territory Causes Problems For Farmers

Arizona Game and Fish Department

Javelina seen near Yuma have captured the attention of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and local farmers. The wild pig-like species is usually seen farther east or south.

Two javelina — also known as collared peccaries — were spotted last September running through the streets of a subdivision in the eastern Foothills of Yuma. A resident took a video of the pair, and that video found its way to Chris Bedinger’s inbox, a public information officer with Arizona Game and Fish.

“We’ve never seen javelina in Mesa Del Sol before, or even in the Gila Valley, so it was pretty interesting to see that video," Bedinger said.

The Gila River should flow from the Mogollon Mountains in New Mexico to the Colorado River near Yuma. But its waters are used up by the time the Gila River reaches southwestern Arizona. Vegetation and cover in the often-dry riverbed make it an attractive route for javelina.

“They’re using that as a corridor and making their way toward Yuma," said Bedinger.

This species is native to South America, but is now commonly seen in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Javelina travel in groups of up to 20 animals. They eat plants, primarily, but will also eat insects and garbage.

Since the September video, no other javelina have been reported in Yuma. But just a few miles east, over the Gila Mountains, the javelina are regular visitors to farms along the riverbed in the Mohawk Valley.

Farmers are concerned about the threat the animals pose to crops.

“They dig, they root. They tend to travel in groups, so they pretty much have a little party in the field every night," said Vicki Scott, food safety director at Amigo Farms near Yuma.

She said in addition to destroying crops, the animals also leave bacteria in the fields.

For the last three years, Game and Fish has partnered with local growers to sponsor a year-round over-the-counter hunt. Area retailers have sold hundreds of javelina hunting tags since the program began.

The pressure from this hunt may have unintentionally pushed a few of the animals even farther west into the outskirts of Yuma, said Bedinger.