Lawrence, Kansas (PRWEB) February 25, 2014
Javelinas, medium-sized mammals also known as collared peccaries that resemble pigs in appearance, have been spreading north in New Mexico. Scientists know little about the links between the mammals and their habitat, but they speculate that javelinas may change their behavior to cope with changes in climate.
The current issue of the Journal of Mammology reports on a study of javelinas (Pecari tajacu) in the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge, located in the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest, and relatively undisturbed, desert in North America. From 2007 to 2011, the authors monitored javelina activity in the refuge, which is situated in south-central New Mexico’s southern San Andres Mountains.
For several decades, javelinas have been expanding their range northward in the southwestern United States. Because their bodies do not adapt to extreme cold or heat, they must change their behavior to deal with temperature shifts, such as by sheltering in caves when weather turns cold and finding water in succulents during extreme heat. Javelinas are generally homebodies, covering most of their home range each day and rarely crossing into one another’s territories. However, they may expand northward during drought or mild winters. Severe winters can threaten the population.
Camera traps were set up to cover the entire study area, and the location of each observation was recorded. The authors then used modeling methods to estimate how many javelinas were in the study area. They also used the photographs produced by the camera traps to determine when javelinas were most active each season.
From 2007 to 2011, the authors found an increase in the number of javelinas in the study area. Most were within 500 m of permanent water sources, with numbers decreasing rapidly with greater distance from water. Javelinas preferred relatively flat areas with spreading canopies from trees or high shrubs that could help take the edge off temperature extremes. Such areas are fairly rare in the southern San Andres Mountains and are heavily affected by prescribed burning and other management practices.
The authors believe that javelinas might be moving farther north because of milder winter temperatures in the refuge. They emphasized the mammals’ apparent dependence on trees and shrubs, particularly those near water, for protection from heat stress. Because javelinas avoid open, burned areas, they suggest limiting prescribed burns to cool months and burning less frequently within the mammals’ active habitat.
Full text of the article “Occupancy and habitat correlates of javelina in the southern San Andres Mountains, New Mexico,” Journal of Mammology, Vol. 95, No. 1, 2014, is now available.
About the Journal of Mammalogy
The Journal of Mammalogy, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mammalogists, is produced six times per year. A highly respected scientific journal, it details the latest research in the science of mammalogy and was recently named one of the top 100 most influential journals of biology and medicine in the last century by the Special Libraries Association. For more information, visit http://www.mammalogy.org/.