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O'Sullivan

For the love of animals: Don't feed the javelinas!

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It's 3 a.m. when it sounds like the wall between my bedroom and the garage has been bashed by a tank. For a moment, I imagine it's my kid, blurry and burned out on double espressos and beer, but then it occurs to me that not even he is capable of making that much racket. And, oh yeah, he's left home.

Another crash, this one louder than the first, and it sounds like metal's involved. Damn! My car's already starting to fall apart; I don't need anyone speeding up the process.

So I storm outside, trailing clouds of fury, only to find a mama javelina the size of a small yak, along with her adolescent child. She's looking at me like I've got a lot of nerve interrupting them, while he stands near her chest, head bowed in shame having failed in his mission. It immediately becomes apparent from the tracks on the lid--and all over the hood of the car--that said mission was to jump up onto the garbage bin and rock it until it came crashing down.

He rocked it, all right, but instead of spilling, it got wedged between the vehicle and a work area covered with tools, which has also succumbed to the law of gravity. It's a friggin' mess.

Now, I know, I know. Javelinas--some people call them "pigs," though they're actually the local peccary--have been getting a bad rap lately. Recently, a woman and her two small dogs were attacked by a roving band, and I've been sent sprinting by them a few times myself while walking my pets. Javelinas really hate dogs, but if you look at it from their point of view, why shouldn't they? A canine predator, whether it's a Chihuahua or coyote, is a canine predator. They all smell the same, and javelinas don't see very well.

But honestly, I don't worry too much about these critters. They rest in an arroyo in back of some local houses and regularly chase the neighborhood children up mesquite trees, which at least has entertainment value. There was a dope a couple of years ago who went after them with a paintball gun. I am positive he'll regret this until the day he dies. Javelinas don't have much of a sense of humor.

"Get lost," I holler, stamping my foot, shoving against the garbage bin to tilt it upright. Junior hunkers in closer to Mama, whose attitude has become something along the lines of, Oh yeah? You and what army? I throw a milk carton at them, but they're unimpressed as it sails by.

Then there is movement in the bushes; either it's a few less-courageous souls waiting for the smorgasbord I've interrupted, or reinforcements gathering to launch another assault. I figure to hell with it and press the button to close the automatic door. Before it's down, I imagine I see them start to scatter, but it could have been wishful thinking. For all I knew, they'd be coming back later with blowtorches and battering rams.

Why are these critters so ballsy? One reason, and one reason only: A lady in the neighborhood feeds them. I am not kidding: She actually throws melon rinds, old bread, soggy lettuce and such out into her front yard to attract them. This is the most amazing part: She claims to be an animal lover and thinks she's doing them a favor. I've talked to her about it. Seems one of the reasons she moved to the foothills was so she could see wildlife. But she never saw any until she started chumming. Now she sees plenty.

There are loads of people around just like her. They say they love animals, but in reality, they must dislike them intensely. Why else put them up for sacrifice, all for the sake of the occasional front-yard wildlife show?

To javelinas, whether it's garbage or handouts, food is food, and once they've lost their fear of humans and learned to see them as walking lunch counters, all bets are off.

During the 1990s, the problem got so bad that Game and Fish removed a band from the neighborhood, releasing them in a wilderness area and tracking their progress. Eighty percent of them starved to death, and they lost track of the others. The animals were so strung out on human handouts and garbage that they didn't know how to live on prickly pear and grubs anymore.

I wonder what people like the neighborhood feeder lady would feel watching animals--animals they insist they love--starve to death. Or suppose they were required to witness, once the animals become a menace--which they inevitably do in suburban areas--their deaths at the hands of officers armed with rifles. Would they keep feeding them then?

I wonder.

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