Living in Rim Country, you are more likely to smell a javelina before you see it.
That's because javelina, also known as peccaries, have a powerful musk gland on the top of the rump. Their odor is always apparent, especially when they are excited. But for some area homeowners, the wild pig-like animal smells like trouble.
An excited or frightened javelina can pose a threat to an unwitting resident taking out the trash on a cool winter night.
"Javelina aren't aggressive, but they are easily surprised," said Mary Gilbert, wildlife biologist for the Payson Ranger District. "They are almost blind, and when they scatter, they will scatter every which way. It's all a fear reaction."
Gilbert explained that a person, or a dog, stepping out into a herd of javelina sets the stage for a negative encounter.
"I've seen one standing on the welcome mat at the front door of a home. It was a full-grown adult, and that would have been quite a surprise if someone had come out the front door," Gilbert said. "Javelina are especially good at taking on dogs because they've lived with coyotes most of their history."
Such a surprise may not only cause injury to humans and their pets, but also to the javelina.
"Understanding wildlife is like understanding people -- they've all had different experiences and we don't know how often they have seen people or heard a car door shut. If they're not used to it, you're one step closer to being in trouble.
"People who have javelina in their area need to think about it ahead of time. If you take your trash out of a certain door, can you take a flashlight, turn on a light and make some noise? It's that preplanning that can help avoid danger -- by not just blundering out there and being surprised."
For residents who are nervous about wildlife visitations, Gilbert offers this simple recommendation: "One of the most effective things you can have next to each door is an aluminum soda pop can filled with enough gravel or small rocks so it will make noise when you throw it.
"If you can open the door and just throw it in their direction. It makes a noise they're not used to. It's not going to hurt the animal, even if you accidentally hit it. But if it lands near the animals it's likely going to scare them away. Try to throw it so it will land between you and the animals, so they will run away from you. It's simple, inexpensive and effective. It's also a handy thing to have in your pocket while hiking."
Gilbert said shooting a gun in the air or other actions may be dangerous or illegal. Reading from a Game and Fish pamphlet, Gilbert reminds residents of the law: "Homeowners have a legal right to use all reasonable measures to protect their property from damage by wildlife, but those measures shall not include capturing, injuring, or unlawful killing of big-game animals.
Javelina are classified as big-game animals in Arizona and are protected by state law."
"One of my pet peeves is when people feed the javelina," Gilbert said. "Mountain lions love to eat javelina, so there is always the possibility that if you have a herd of javelina in your area, you could be attracting mountain lions.
"The best thing we can do for our wildlife in the area is to keep them afraid of us. You don't like to do it, but that's the only way to best protect them and us.
"It's the most humane thing -- it's the safest thing. They need to stay wild."