Young porcupine visits Fields Pond apple tree

Posted Oct. 15, 2008, at 6:25 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:55 a.m.

A young porcupine has visited the apple tree next to the Fields Pond Audubon Center since August. Most days it eats apples the way a large squirrel eats a large nut, which in this case is an apple.

It is a very funny sight. Sitting on a thick, horizontal branch, “Porky” holds an apple with its front paws and keeps turning the apple as it chomps on it, just as you and I would.

One day I saw Porky walking on one of our nice, level, mowed paths. Porky was walking as fast as possible, swaying to and fro, right toward the apple tree. It was a very funny sight. Those apples are delicious.

I tell visitors not to stand right under Porky.

The reason is not porcupine scat. The reason is that once I was walking with a small, quiet group of naturalists at the Audubon Center when suddenly, a large porcupine fell from a large oak tree. It landed with a big thud. Then it walked away, slowly, limping a little. We were quite surprised.

The last thing we need at the Audubon Center is to have a porcupine fall onto a visitor — ouch!

There is a big hollow tree, deep in the forest at the Audubon Center. Generations of porcupines have lived in that big tree. This tree has an enormous landslide of porcupine scat in front of it.

Porcupines are not noted for their sanitation. They are noted for their fur, much of which has evolved, over many thousands of years, into quills. The quills have long, sharp points with scales pointing backward. That is why the quills are very hard to pull out of the dog that gets too close to a porcupine — ouch, again!

The quills protect the porcupine from most predators, but not always from clever coyotes, bobcats and fishers. Fishers especially are known to kill porcupines — they attack them again and again in the face, which has hair but no quills.

We have all three of those predators at the center. A few winters ago, I saw a kill site in the woods. Tracks of fisher and porcupine, blood and quills on the snow told the story.

Good luck, Porky. And don’t ever, ever cross the road. Cars go too fast for you.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.