We have lived on our farm in Peterborough County, Ontario for 13 years. I knew there were porcupines around. The dogs would often come home after exploring the property with quills stuck to their fur but not usually embedded. They had in all likelihood found a carcass that they nosed around in as dogs will do with dead things. Once Rosco, our curious dog, came home with one quill in his nostril. It was stuck in there really good and warranted a visit to the vet – a half-hour drive east of us. I had heard if you try to remove it yourself, part of the quill can break off and remain in the poor dog possibly causing infection but definitely causing discomfort and pain. Regardless, poor Rosco did not want that porcupine quill pulled out by us. A little sedation at the vet followed by removal by an expert brought a satisfactory closure to Rosco’s porcupine adventure.
A gentleman farmer who rented property from us to grow hay for his dairy cattle told us an interesting story about porcupines. He remembered in the 70’s being out in our 30 acres of hardwood forest and seeing dozens of porcupine carcasses hung from trees. Do people eat these animals? And like many mammals, do they taste like chicken? My kids are pacifists like we are. We have never hunted and our kids have followed suit. Its not that we are opposed to all forms of hunting. We’ve raised broiler chickens (although it took me a good many years before I was able to raise my own). We regularly buy freezer beef from local farmers to feed our three growing boys. Going out and shooting game just has never appealed to us as a family activity. Watching them has always been much more rewarding. My oldest son came home exhilarated one evening after a ride on the ATV as he had been chased by a deer. She was probably a new mother who had a nearby doe. That adventure stuck with him for years! But, back to the porcupines, the story of the hanging porcupine corpses stuck with me for years. Every time I walked to the forest, I waited to see that sight and was always relieved to find there were no hanging porcupines. My kids have traveled to the forest over the years exploring with their dogs but never a porcupine did they see either. My husband cuts wood for our wood stove. Again, not a porcupine sighted on ground or trees. Its possible the story told by our farmer friend was merely an urban (or rural as it may be) legend but our dogs seem to have been able to ferret out these elusive creatures.
Porcupine in our Front Yard
Labour Day of 2014 was the first time we have laid eyes on a live porcupine. My husband saw it walking across our front lawn and in the nick of time stopped our dog Rosco from going to investigate. An emergency trip to the vet was not something we looked forward to again. He was able to grab our camera lying nearby and was able to snap some great photos as the creature climbed a tree to safety. Its better to view these creatures from afar. Those quills hurt like a son-of-a-gun when they get stuck in your skin. Just ask our mutt Rosco. He’ll tell ya!
Check out this website by Canadian Geographic for Kids, Porcupine Fact Sheet. It provides a number of interesting facts about this elusive rodent. A few quick facts:
- they stick close to trees
- they run from danger if possible
- if cornered they raise their quills and loose ones may fly out and lodge in nearby animals or people
- like a threatened beaver, it will chatter and swing its tail at a predator
- the barbs of its quills, when embedded in the skin, swell from the animal’s body heat making them very hard to get out
- apparently people do eat porcupines which have been said to taste a bit like duck – so maybe my farmer friend was telling the truth!