Saturday, November 26, 2022

Pesky Porcupines

Porcupine as seen from backdoor
Barton Mountain ridgeline in the back

What a day today. The roads are so iced that the town plow has chained up while it salts the road. Nothing to do but stay inside and do … something.

I'm still keeping an eye on the porcupines. They don't appear every day. It's more like every third day, so I'm wondering what else they are eating. Luckily, I can see them from the windows in the back mudroom. Unfortunately, my tripod is in the car and it won't be until today that I can get it out. So all of these shots are handheld. I did make a tripod of my elbows on my walker but it wasn't enough for the amount of digital zoom I used.

Digital zoom; eye is visible despite snow and handheld shake

I've learned more about porcupines. Their bellies are not quilled and are very soft and vulnerable. In the photo below, you can see that. When they sleep, their head faces a back wall of the den, and their tail faces the entrance. They swing their tail at predators and the quills release upon contact. So they are pretty invulnerable but they still have a couple predators, predominately the dreaded fisher cat.

Vermont had to reintroduce fishers because they are so reviled that they had been extirpated a hundred or so years ago. But they are back and as vicious as ever. And they love porcupines. The balance of porcupines in the wild is back in check now because of the fishers.

More digital zoom; underbelly and claws visible

Fisher (Pekania pennanti)
(c) Jeff Hullstrung

Lucy loves porcupine days. She wants outside constantly and only comes in for warming. She knows where the den is under the barn and she tracks their movements all day. Porcupines are supposed to be nocturnal, and I know mine are out and about at night, but they are active in the day, also. When they are up a tree, Lucy can even spot them!

Lucy is watching the porcupine shown above in the tree.

Porcupines do not clean the scat out from their den. The scat can become so deep that it spills out of the den. No one knows why. 

Amelia came by on Thanksgiving night to drop off a dinner for me, so I opened the garage doors and turned on the outside light. She turned off the lights and closed the doors when she left. In the morning, Lucy went nuts. She excitedly ranged all over the garage, and even thoroughly scanned the rafters of the garage. That's when I became nervous. She explored the garage without hackles so I knew there was not a danger like bear. Sort of. Lucy's definition of danger and mine differ, so I asked her to come back in before she found an animal. I kept the doors open so that whatever it was could leave. I am very fortunate that Lucy has never once attacked another animal. She simply alerts with deafening barking and shows me where they are.

Yesterday morning I went out to the garage and found a lot of scat lined across the garage doors … well it was actually everywhere but most prominent in front of the doors. I found a footprint, too. Neither has been identified but because of the porcupine activity, I strongly suspect that I had inadvertently trapped on in the garage overnight. The scat has the cashew-shape of porcupine. The print is the right size for porcupine but is ill-defined. I have perennial problems with red squirrels trying to move into the attic every winter, so the scat could be theirs, also. Red squirrels are not nocturnal, though.

I had my measuring tape with me, but it  did not work!

The scat was everywhere.

One poor print.

We had a wonderfully odd Thanksgiving. I hope you did, also.

Saturday's Critters at
Viewing Nature with Eileen



  1. I am so totally amazed again by your very own personal porcipines.
    My husband tells me they are not to ever be hunted as game, like deer or rabbit. However, if you are ever lost and starving they can be hunted and eaten. Lucy was a bright girl for not getting too close to one in the garage. Hope you are feeling much better and ready for school next week.

  2. I didn't know much about these amazing critters so I appreciate the info. I saw one years ago on a hike in Colorado. I didn't realize they would go up a tree like funny to see it up there. Enjoy your weekend!

  3. We didn't get ice rain, but they did in Ottawa. I like porcupines. They are so slow and quiet. We have never had one in the garage, thankfully! I went in there today and a deermouse ran to hide from me! We've a small and a larger fisher, at least.

  4. I don't think I've ever seen a real live porcupine, super interesting!

  5. Interesting information in this post. I’ve never seen porcupines on trees.

  6. I haven't seen a porcupine in years and would be delighted if one crossed my path.

  7. It must be endlessly fascinating to live so close to nature.

  8. Hello,
    Neat sightings. I love the cute Fisher. Your Lucy is a cutie.
    Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your day and week ahead.


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