Before moving to Idaho, porcupines were just the prickly critter I knew to keep the dogs from meeting. We had one in our backyard once growing up in Canada… Actually, it ended up in our garage somehow then wondered into the back yard. I remember my mom trying to point it out to me from my bedroom window but I never actually saw it. So as a grown up, our first encounter with porcupines in the wild was completely unexpected but absolutely fascinating.
First, did you know that porcupines climb trees and during the day that’s where they hang out?! I didn’t! And with a degree in zoology I should’ve! But, while I can tell you all kinds of random facts about marmots (a story for a different day) I knew close to nothing about porcupines outside of they have quills and I could identify their skull. So one day Alan and I were out looking for owls and saw some weird furry thing in the tree. Thinking it was some kind of weird bug nest (y’all know the creepy ones I’m talking about right!?) we crept closer and to our surprise were feet away from a porcupine relaxing in the tree watching our every step.
We were both flabbergasted! A porcupine… In a tree! What!? After taking a few pictures then giving the little (ok they are actually a lot bigger then I expected too) guy some space we continued on our way to find owls. But since that day we have been fascinated by porcupines and since we are more aware of them now we see them all the time! Year round we can usually find porcupines in some of our favorite wildlife spots. And I just love them.
They truly have tons of personality and really are cute creatures once you look past the damage those quills can do if you get too close. We found the guy below chilling in the tree one winter morning, completely unfussed by what was going on around him. We walked within feet of him and he continued lounging in his tree, fast asleep like an old man in his lounge chair.
I’m fascinated by their feet too. The dexterity in their hands as they pull branches towards them for food is just plain neat to watch.
Did you know:
- That the porcupine is the second largest rodent native to North America? The beaver is the only rodent that is larger.
- The quills are modified hairs with barbs on the end, which is why they are so hard to get out if you are “porcupined” as we say at work (I work at a vet, we have dogs come in with quills in their face yearly… And it’s the same dogs every year!)
- Contrary to popular belief they cannot shoot their quills. They will however lash out at predators with their tail, embedding their barbed quills in the attackers skin.
- Porcupines are excellent swimmers. Their hollow quills help keep them afloat.
- Porcupine means “quill pig” in Latin.
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