Sorry, golf course. The javelinas were here first.

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In the year 2023, you hear less about how nature is healing and more about how nature is fighting back.
First, it was the orcas. A small pod of them became infamous last spring for ramming boats off the coast of Spain.
Now, it’s the javelinas, furry pig-like mammals that live in the Southwest.
On Sunday, the assistant superintendent of a private golf club in Sedona, Arizona, posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing damage on the course caused by javelinas. Basically, a lot of pristine green grass had been churned up.
Come along with me on my carnage (I mean course) check this morning. What should be one of the most beautiful golf courses in the country is being destroyed by herds of javelina. If anyone has a contact in AZ state govt that can help us find a solution please pass it along. — Em Casey (@emcaseyturf) October 22, 2023
“What should be one of the most beautiful golf courses in the country is being destroyed by herds of javelina,” Emily Casey, the golf club’s superintendent, wrote on X.
The post went viral, garnering more than 24 million views in a few days.
Many X users cheered on “team javelina” for waging war against an elite golf course. It’s an easy target. Golf courses often cater to the wealthy — this particular club costs thousands of dollars to join — and they have a sizable environmental footprint, replacing vast stretches of natural habitat and sucking up loads of water.
Several major news outlets, meanwhile, had a different reaction. They were quick to demonize the creatures, describing them as brutish invaders set on destroying a carefully manicured landscape. “Hungry javelinas plague prestigious Arizona golf course,” one headline read. It’s an unsurprising framing for stories involving animals inconveniencing humans and their things.
Neither of these reactions is particularly helpful, and the latter, some experts argue, has the story backward. Though javelinas have been spreading north in recent decades, they’re a native species to the Southwest. Golf courses are destroying their habitat, not the other way around. These animals are using what resources they can find — in this case, juicy fairways and water-filled roots under a golf green. We can’t fault them for that.
Why javelinas are digging up a golf course
With stubby legs, hoofed feet, and a hog-like snout, javelinas, also known as collared peccaries, range from tropical South America, where they originally evolved, to the southwestern US. They only arrived in the Arizona desert within the last century or two, and they’ve been moving north in recent decades. Nonetheless, they’re considered native to the region. Arizona is their home.
These animals are abundant in the state, largely because they’ve learned to live alongside human communities, taking advantage of any resources they can find, said Sonny Bleicher, an ecologist at Xavier University of Louisiana who has researched javelinas in Arizona. They will rummage through trash and drink water from fountains and cattle ranches. They’ll also dig up roots and tubers wherever they can find them.
Roots can provide both food and water, said Alexandra Burnett, a doctoral researcher at the University of Arizona, who studies javelinas and other urban animals. So it’s not surprising, she said, that javelinas would try to root them out in a golf club in Sedona (no matter how exclusive it may be).
“The expectation that [javelinas] aren’t going to use the food resources on a golf course simply because it was engineered for and by humans is pretty preposterous to me,” Burnett told Vox. “I think humans have built up this idea of how they think the world works. What they’re really seeing — or what they’re really projecting on all animals — is how the human world works.”
The landscapes where javelinas and other wildlife find food are also shrinking. For decades, humans have been replacing wild habitats like grasslands, deserts, and woodlands in Arizona — one of the nation’s fastest-growing states — with housing developments, malls, and, of course, hundreds of golf courses. “[Javelinas] really don’t have much choice but to use artificial resources,” Burnett said, referring to human landscapes like golf courses. “That’s how they’ll survive.”
The golf course vs. javelina discourse is entertaining and, for the most part, lighthearted. Yet it points to something more troubling and existential: a growing disconnect between humans and nature.
“It’s sad because we have coexisted with wildlife for our entire evolutionary history,” Burnett said. “Up until the past 200 or 300 years, this wasn’t seen as an ‘us versus them.’ It was just seen as living.”
To live on this planet is to compete with other living things for resources, she said, be they javelinas, coyotes, or wolves. If we want them to live here too — and we should really want that, as they are fundamental pieces of a complex ecosystem on which literally all life depends — we just have to learn to make our coexistence tolerable.
That doesn’t mean people should invite javelinas into their homes, Burnett said. These animals can be aggressive if they feel threatened, especially if they’re with their babies (and there are simple ways to avoid them). But if we’re looking to blame something for “plaguing” the environment, humans are a much more logical target. At the very least, if we continue mucking up their landscapes, we shouldn’t blame them for mucking up ours.


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