Wednesday, November 23, 2022

My Porcupine Clarity

Snow showers today. I caught one earlier and because it is such a quiet baking day, I played with the shots.

The two surviving cottonwoods at
the edge of the bog and orchard.

Flakes of snow.

I've spent some time reading to see how much damage the porcupines are going to create on the tamaracks. Foresters say they are awful pests. Naturalists note that the tamarack inner bark is a favorite of porkies. From "Tamarack Time" at Flandrum Hill:
The inner bark of tamaracks is edible and has many medicinal uses among Native Americans, among them, treating burns, wounds, inflammations and headaches. It’s also a favourite of porcupines. 

From another "Tamarack Time" article (pdf), author unknown, from the US Forestry Service:

Tamarack habitats are used by a variety of wildlife species. It provides cover from summer heat for bear, deer and moose, but is browsed by relatively few species. Snowshoe hares feed on twigs and bark, and porcupines feed on the inner bark. Spruce grouse and sharp-tailed grouse eat the needles and buds. Ospreys nest in the dead trees. Red squirrels cut and store the cones. Mice and voles eat large numbers of the seeds off the ground.

I checked all of my archives for photos I may have captured of all of the "pests" of tamarack. I have not found one. But I did possibly find the cocoon of Hyalophora columbia, a rare silkmoth that loves tamaracks. I brought the cocoon inside to raise, but it never developed. But my daughter, Amelia, did find an adult in nearby Brownington at school. That was such an exciting day for both of us! It was also an extremely frustrating day since I have been searching for these for 20 years and she found one in her first bug hunting year.

Columbia Silkmoth (Hyalophora columbia)

I have also documented the Larch Tolype (Tolype laricis), whose host is tamarack. It's a beautiful fuzzy gray moth with a brillo-type haircut. It was my husband's favorite moth each season.

Larch Tolype - Hodges#7673 (Tolype laricis)

Larch Tolype - Hodges#7673 (Tolype laricis)

I know that if I called Vermont Fish & Wildlife there would be no advice. It is illegal to move any wildlife to anywhere at all (even skunks). It is illegal to harass wildlife in any way (and who would want to?). And while it may be legal for me to shoot them, I won't.

My conclusion is that I will leave the porkies alone. I will stop resenting them. I will learn to appreciate their place in my biosphere. If they kill one or two tamaracks (they are chewing on two that I know of), I'll get over it. I will hope to see an osprey nest in a dead tamarack here. I will think of the grouse, deer, moose, mice and voles, and snowshoe hares that use the tamaracks. My snowshoe hare tracks, in fact, are always in the same area near them. I will keep track of the progression of tree gnawing. I have an entire new research project.

How high will a porcupine go?

They love the main stem inner bark the most.

I still don't know how they got out on
 those small branches on the left.
I read that many die from falling off trees.

I learned today that the two porcupines that I see are most likely denning together for the winter under the barn. I remembered that they love salt. I remembered when my foot slipped into an underground den of theirs up above the house in the cliffs and came out covered in porcupine poo. 

I'm going to ask Amelia to get me a tamarack shoot so that we can plant it indoors as the USFS author did.

Tamaracks can live up to 400 years. My attitude towards porcupines is irrelevant, trivial, compared to that.

Here is a YouTube video of a porcupine eating tamarack inner bark. 
Knowledge creates empathy.



  1. Beautiful photos of the forest. And it seems like a healthy perspective to let the biosphere be as it is. I actually did not know that porcupines were pests in some areas.

    Hope you are doing well and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
    -CatSynth (Amanda, Sam Sam, and Big Merp)

  2. I have always adored Vermont. It's so pleasant to visit it every day with you!

  3. Lovely and special images. It seems that the winter started.
    All the best and a fine week!

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  5. Hello,
    It is nice you are letting the porcupines enjoy the tamarack. The moths may be pest but they look pretty. Nature has a way of surviving. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Take care, enjoy your day!


  6. Love the snow scenes very much


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