Wildlife Encounters While RVing in Big Bend NP

There are beasts that lurk in the scrub bushes of Big Bend National Park that can cause a grown man to run away like a little girl. I am that man and this is my story.

Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park, Texas

We ventured down to do some RVing in Big Bend NP in the spring of 2012. We had read it was this amazing expanse of wild Chihuahua Desert in south west Texas. It was said to be remote, rugged and beautiful, a terrific place to capture some gorgeous photographs. Driving into the park we were greeted with scenic vista after scenic vista and got really excited about the photographic and hiking opportunities this park would have. You would think in such a hot, dry and desolate environment there would be little to no wildlife. To the contrary the desert had a surprising assortment of life forms. Insects of course but there were also a large assortment of rodents including some super-fast jackrabbits with giant ears. As we drove along at night they would race out and flash by just in front of the truck freaking the crap out of us!

Black-tailed-Jackrabbit
Black-tailed-Jackrabbit

There was also a large contingent of coyotes that would gather every evening just outside the campground and bay, yip and holler like crazy dogs. My wife Anne loved there calls. Needless to say though we kept our beagles close to the rig and didn’t do much late night dog walks. I felt like I was in a Warner Bros cartoon. We had the Bugs Bunny, Wiley Coyote and hanging around the parking lot was the Road Runner. Beep! Beep!

Big Bend Coyote
Big Bend Coyote
Roadrunner
The Roadrunner Beep! Beep!

These were all very amusing critters but there was one more roaming Big Bend that I had never encountered before called Javelina! Cue the high pitched scream for effect.

Peccaries (Javelina) are omnivores, and will eat small animals, although their preferred foods consist of roots, grasses, seeds, fruit, and cacti—particularly prickly pear.Pigs and peccaries can be differentiated by the shape of the canine tooth, or tusk. In European pigs, the tusk is long and curves around on itself, whereas in peccaries, the tusk is short and straight. The jaws and tusks of peccaries are adapted for crushing hard seeds and slicing into plant roots, and they also use their tusks for defending against predators.

By rubbing the tusks together, they can make a chattering noise that warns potential predators not to get too close. In recent years in northwestern Bolivia near Madidi National Park, large groups of peccaries have been reported to have seriously injured or killed people – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peccary

Javelina at the Living Desert
Javelina at the Living Desert

We heard tell of these little pig like beasts as we had moseyed our way across Texas. Consensus was to leave them alone and give them a wide berth, especially if they have youngins. We saw a few on our drive and they were quite the ugly looking little dudes. I didn’t become real leery of them until I saw what they could do to a dog. One of the RVers in the park had been running with her dog and out of the scrub charge javelina, attacked them and one put a nasty gash in the poor dog’s side. The javelina have pointed tusks protruding from their mouths and use them to rip open an animal’s loins. This was confirmed by a local vet in the nearby town of Terlingua. We had one of our beagles in to get looked at for a coughing issue and the vet told us he regularly treats doggie victims of the javelina.

Javelina-Skull
Javelina Skull – Yipes!

A Pleasant Lunch Interrupted

It was a beautiful sunny spring day in Big Bend National Park and we had spent the cool morning hiking and photographing the countryside. Along the road back to the Rio Grande Village campground there is an old watering hole called Dugout Wells, just off the highway. Because there is an old well and spring here some trees grow and makes for a little oasis in the harsh desert. The park has setup a few picnic tables and we thought this would be a nice place for a picnic lunch.

Dugout Wells BIg Bend NP
Dugout Wells Big Bend NP

Anne and I grabbed a table and commenced to chow down on some yummy PB and J sandwiches when we noticed a clicking sound in the bushes. How odd we thought to ourselves. What could that be? Maybe it was a strange insect? Anne decided to walk a ways down the path and check it out. She got a several yards away when it dawned on me. Javelina click their tusks as a warning to intruders! Just as I yelled to Anne to get away we heard the nastiest sounding growling and grunting I think I’ve ever heard an animal make. That backed Anne up immediately and we both slowly started to pack up our lunch and head for the truck. A few steps on that journey bushes began to shake violently, the Javelina were charging us!! It was scary. You couldn’t see them but I knew they were coming fast sounding like little balls of hate. I’d like to say I was a hero and stood and protected my woman but the real truth is I was first back to the vehicle. Luckily the javelina never left the bush.

We ate the rest of our lunch huddle in the safety of the truck. While we ate a young family showed up and we warned them that there was an angry pack of Javelina. I guess ignorance is bliss because rather than heed our warning they all set out to try and flush out the javelina. You see that a lot in National Parks. People have no concept of what a cornered wild animal can do to them or their little children.

Well that’s my Javelina story. I have since seen one up close at the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Springs and I’m happy they didn’t catch us. Anyone else got a javelina story?

20 thoughts on “Wildlife Encounters While RVing in Big Bend NP”

  1. We Big Bend in 2008, although we saw some javelin’s we did not have an experience like you had. I do have to admit it that your story had me laughing, knowing if it had been us we would have reacted the same way. We do understand exactly what you mean by people not knowing what a cornered wild animal will do, most people think they are pets or something. Just wanted to let you know we enjoyed your story and it brought back good memories of the park.

  2. Fun story to read. I am from that part of TX and you better heed the javelina warnings! It never ceases to amaze me how oblivious people are to the dangers of the natural world.

    • I have heard from some Texans they are nasty for sure. Angie was napping in the air conditioned rig back at Rio Grande Campground, Big Bend is a national park they don’t allow doggies on the trails. We kept her very close to the rig as well because there were Javelina and a coyote pack in the campground area.

    • haha, no jackalopes :) Roadrunners are neat, we see them every year when we stay in Palm Springs at the Thousand Trails Park there, they have a bunch that call the park home. One thing I have never seen yet but hope to is a desert tortoise in the wild.

  3. Ray we have had a wild pig encounter, when Eddie and I first came back to the island in 98 and he took me up riding in corolla to see the wild horseds, we cam across a wild pig, but it was eaten and rooting around and I think the horses we were riding were a threat to him, so didnt have a attack of any kind but was kind of exciting to see a little wild pig, but he was harmless at that time. Run off in the woods. Have a picture but regular picture long time a go not digital, might have to hunt it up and scan it, but might be in Wy in our other camper in the shed. Yours takes the cake. I was raised with mule footed pigs on the ranch we had, the were excotic but sold them a lot and people liked to come see them. finally got rid of them. i think bye thetime Eddie came in the picture we only had 1 left. and hedied finally/.aileen

  4. if anyone wants to hunt the pigs let me know. I have an old friend who lives down near Kerrville with some land. He allows hunting on his property for a small fee and will take you out as a guide, teach you how to shoot and how to clean em. He also does Deer hunting .

  5. Teresa and I were camping in Fort Davis State Park in September with some friends. We were sitting by the campfire when we looked across to our friends RV and I see several sets of eyes coming across their campsite. As we watched it was 8 Javelina coming across their site straight toward us. We took rocks that were handily laying around for ammunition and made them stroll off into a ravine. It wasn’t 5 minutes later I looked at my wife sitting behind me and there was one 5 feet from her and our friends wife. Again we shooed them off with rocks. They never seemed to be a threat and I do know how dangerous they can be. Looked like they were looking for some crumbs that other camper may send their way. That area is a beautiful part of Texas.

  6. We have Big Bend on our bucket list. The horror story I heard was about these cockroach looking insect that look like they are on steroid!. I’ll take a javelina any day over a giant cockroach. We stopped at a rest area near Ft Stockton, Txon IH 10 last Sept and they were there. Freaked me out, I ran with my pug as fast as his little legs would go. My sister and her fiance hunt javelinas outside San Antonio, let me know if you need help.

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