“It’s a javelina family!” We’re spending a couple months in Gold Canyon, Arizona. Last week, along with a group of friends, we were invited to the home of Eric and Joyce Peters from Steinbach. The women were chatting in the living room, waiting for the guys to return from their golf game so we could have dinner. Suddenly I noticed what looked like five dark colored pigs in the Peters’ backyard, four adults and a baby. “It’s a javelina family,” Joyce told us. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen them on their property.
Javelina look like hogs but are really members of the peccary family. You do have to exhibit caution around them especially when they are with their young. They may charge at you and their sharp teeth can inflict a serious wound.
There’s a written notice in our Arizona garage reminding us to keep the door closed at all times since snakes like to come inside especially on cold nights. We haven’t seen a snake yet but there are warning signs about them on some of the hiking trails we frequent and we’ve met hikers with guns who say they are ‘packing heat’ on the trail just in case they meet a snake.
One night when I couldn’t sleep I was downstairs in our living room reading. Suddenly I heard a terrific racket. I thought maybe my husband was having a sleepless night too and had turned on the television in our upstairs bedroom. Then I realized the noise was coming from outside the windows of our house. I opened the sliding patio doors slightly and the sound was deafening. It was a pack of coyotes howling in the moonlight on the golf course fairway that runs behind our home. We’ve noticed coyotes observing us from a hill when we’ve been golfing and they’ve run across the highway in front of our car numerous times.
Our backyard here is a haven for birds. We’ve seen roadrunners and gambrel quails, gila woodpeckers and cactus wrens. I’ve been taking photos of the birds and sending them to my friend and bird expert in Landmark Fran Giesbrecht for identification. He tells me some are birds I’d see in Manitoba in summer. The mouring doves, sharp-shinned hawks and ruby-throated hummingbirds have migrated to Arizona for winter. Our friends John and Chris Neufeld from Steinbach, who are renting a house with us, have put up a hummingbird feeder, so we can sit outside and watch hummingbirds to our heart’s content.
On a cruise around Canyon Lake we saw a herd of big horn sheep grazing high up on the surrounding cliffs. It seemed impossible for them to be navigating such steep and rocky terrain. Our cruise commentator told us that the sheep have adapted to their desert environment and can go without water for long periods of time.
The animal we see perhaps the most often here in Arizona is the desert cottontail. They are everywhere, scurrying out from behind the cactus along the trails and roads. They have so many predators, coyotes, snakes and owls that most are killed in their first year of life.
Our family lived in rural Arizona for a year in the early 1990s and we contended with visits from black widows, centipedes, scorpions and tarantulas as well. That’s not as imminent a threat here in our more urban Arizona setting.
Learning to appreciate and live with the creatures in any new location is part of what makes it interesting. I’m enjoying the opportunity to observe everything from the tiny beautiful Anna’s hummingbird to the large ugly javelina.
Other posts about Arizona….