June 4, 2004
In 2002, the porcupine population exploded and the big rodents kept people awake by gnawing on cabins at night. (We know someone who had much of the siding eaten off his cabin by porcupines.) Goldie, the dog, lost enough arguments with them to learn to run the other way rather than give chase. The BB Dennis' 5-year-old grandson shot at one didn't permanently frighten it. Our best opportunity came one night about 2:00 a.m. We were awakened by what sounded like a big one chewing on our cabin directly under the bed. Dennis got up, grabbed a shotgun and went under the cabin. Ka-boom!
The next morning I went below to see how big the beast was (about 30 lbs.). In the dark crawl space, it was easy to locate the dead rodent in light coming through a spray of holes in the wood siding. In the dark, Dennis missed our propane tanks by just inches!
In 2004, we had a literal porcupine explosion. On our first summer trip to the lake, young guests twice heard porcupines munching on the new bunkhouse. Dennis shot the first one outside, but the second was in the shed. When he shot it, it exploded, sending quills into the ceiling, the walls, the lumber, and all over the gravel floor. A single quill in a dog's foot can work its way in and cause lots of trouble, so we spent part of every trip painstakingly picking up quills, some 30,000 of them! We didn't get them all. Some are still there, stuck in the ceiling. We've been told porcupines can't throw their quills, so we have no good explanation.
One peaceful afternoon at the cabin, I heard singing outside. No one was in camp but Dennis, and he was showering. What could it be? When the gnawing started, I knew. I'd been serenaded by a porcupine.
Did you know porcupines are born fully quilled? Quills are modified hairs. Porcupines are born in a sack that the mother chews off. Quills are soft at birth but harden within an hour.
When a quill touches a person or animal's skin, it sticks. The body heat of the victim causes barbs to expand so quills become firmly embedded. It is easier, if possible, to pull a quill through than to pull it back out the way it entered.
Porcupines feed on leaves, twigs and plants, but when green vegetation is scarce, they chew through the outer bark of trees to feed on the cambium (inner bark layer). If a tree is chewed all the way around, it dies. In the winter of 2012, a friend shot a porcupine that was destroying one of our favorite trees outside the cabin. As the snow melted, hair and quills appeared. Up the hill, we found a "plug" from a grizzly bear. It's quite possible the frozen porcupine provided that grizzly with his first meal of the spring.
We were glad the tree survived.
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Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony