Collared peccaries are pig-like mammals, originally classified by early researchers as a species of Suidae family, which includes animals such as pigs, hogs and boars. Currently, this species is recognized as a member of Tayassuidae family. Collared peccaries are endemic exclusively to South and Central America as well as partially to south-western North America. Although these animals seem to be helpless, they are able to defend themselves against the most fearsome predators, using their hordes.
Collared Peccaries are represented by as many as 14 sub-species. They are endemic to Nearctic and Neotropical regions. These Peccaries have a rather large area of distribution, stretching from South America (northern Argentina) to Central America and as far north as the southern portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the U.S. Populations in South and Central America occupy tropical rainforests, while those in the U.S. typically live in Saguaro deserts with mesquite environment, dominated by prickly pear cacti. These animals can occasionally be seen in residential areas, frequently hand-fed by local people.
Collared peccaries are diurnal creatures that are active during the daytime hours. They are also highly social animals, gathering in considerably large groups of up to 50 individuals, led by a single alpha male, which mates with females of the group. Community members usually form close bonds between each other. They also practice mutual grooming, which is thought to enhance interpersonal relationships. Males typically engage in harsh competition, which rarely results in mortality. Collared peccaries display very territorial behavior, marking their home ranges with special scent glands, found on their rump. Scent marking occurs through rubbing the hind part on the ground or on tree bark. This form of communication allows group members to recognize each other. Communication system of this species includes several sounds such as an alarm call, aggression display or a submission sound.
Collared peccaries generally maintain herbivorous diet, which varies depending on geographical range. Thus, populations on southern parts of their range mainly rely on roots, bulbs, fungi and nuts, supplementing this diet with fruits, eggs, carrion, snakes, fish and frogs. Meanwhile, those in the north prefer roots, bulbs, beans, nuts, berries, grass and cacti.
Collared peccaries exhibit a polygynous mating system, where a single alpha male mates with females of the group and defends his mating rights against other males of the area. These animals don't display a specific breeding season and instead may breed throughout the year. Gestation period lasts for up to 150 days, yielding 1 - 5 young. Females usually leave the group for one day prior to giving birth, in order to protect their young. After a short while, the newborn peccaries begin following their mother. Young peccaries are weaned at about 2 - 3 months of age. However, they remain with their mother for the first 11 - 12 months of their lives, after which they reach maturity. The age of reproductive maturity is 8 - 14 months old for females and 11 - 12 months old for males.
In spite of being classified as Least Concern, Collared peccaries are affected by a number of factors, which negatively impact their numbers. Throughout their range, these animals are currently facing loss of their natural habitat. They are also predated by wild felines. Further, due to raiding crops, they are considered to be a pest species and are thus commonly persecuted by humans, who try to protect their crops by trapping or directly shooting Collared peccaries. On the other hand, these animals have suffered from continuous hunting for food in Central and South America. The total population of this species has nowadays greatly reduced because of commercial hunting for their hide and meat. Currently, they are hunted for sport in the southwestern United States.
According to IUCN, the Collared peccary is widely distributed and common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. As reported by the About Animal resource, south-western North America holds more than 2,000,000 individuals of this species. These animals are also found in Central and Southern America, where their numbers appear to be stable. Overall, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers remain stable today.
Being herbivores, Collared peccaries may have a role in the structuring of plant communities and are seed dispersers. They may also affect large carnivores populations (jaguar, puma, coyote), as items of prey.