Big Bend National ParkFebruary 10, 1988
TEXAS: Brewster County
K-Bar Campsite in Big Ben National Park; elevation about 3000 feet.

Sometimes a story stays with you, all out of proportion to its importance. Such a story once was told to me by an old Maya Indian with whom I was working in the tropical lowlands of northern Guatemala. In that lush, exotic jungle full of poisonous snakes, big wildcats and streambank crocodiles, my friend told me that in the jungle the thing he most feared was the javalina -- the wild pig my mammal books refer to as the peccary. Vividly I remember Don Antonio saying:

"Usually those pigs run from you. Problem is, they're unpredictable, or maybe just stupid. You surprise a herd and they're just as likely to run at you as away from you. They have tusks that can rip your legs apart. If they knock you down, they can cut your whole body to shreds. And if you ever get between a mama javalina and her piglets, well compadre, you better just say your Hail Mary's!"

Peccary, drawing courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, artist Bob HinesSo today I'm walking down a dry, rocky canyon not half a mile southwest of Panther Junction Park Headquarters. Suddenly I feel the ground being jarred and I hear gravel being knocked loose. One big peccary scrambles up the slope to the right; six smaller peccaries scramble up the slope to the left. That must be mama on the right and at least one or two of those piglets on the left must be hers, and I don't even know what a Hail Mary is.

The smaller ones stop about thirty feet away while Mama stands less than twenty. Mama turns her side toward me, raises the coarse gray/black hair on her back like a tomcat getting ready to fight, and emits a strong, skunky odor.

In situations like this with large dogs, always I hold my ground and make a noise. That's what I do now. I stand in one spot, clap my hands and yell. And then the whole troupe of tuskers runs away.

End of story...

Go to Next Entry
Return to the Desert Index