February 20, 2020
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Here’s how to make a porcupine call

Today, I’m pleased to help teach thousands of readers how to make a sound that will startle their friends, frighten their enemies and astonish (or annoy) everyone else.

Today, we’re going to make a porcupine call.

I can already hear you: “Why in the world would I want to call a porcupine?”

Good question. Chances are, you wouldn’t. But won’t it be cool to know that if you ever really want to, you’ll be able to channel your own inner porcupine—and speak the language?

Of course it will.

So, here’s the deal: I don’t really know how to teach the skill. All I can tell you is that you make this odd, squealing noise by inhaling hard, and by trying to pinch down the top of your windpipe as you do so. At least, that’s what I think I’m doing.

You may wonder how I know how to make this odd noise, and why I’m willing to assert that certain porcupines make similar noises. I’m glad you asked. Here’s the tale.

For years, I’d made this horrendous squeal just to make my friends and family members laugh. I don’t know when I discovered the skill — it really is a skill, as you’ll see in the video — but I’ve been doing it for years.

One year, while spending a week fishing in northern Quebec (where porcupines lurked around every corner, it seemed), one particularly road-hogging critter refused to yield and let us drive by him.

“Give him the squeal,” my friend told me. “That’ll get him to move.”

I leaned out the window, emptied my lungs, and then inhaled as hard as I could. “Squeeeeeeeal!”

The porcupine didn’t like that, and rapidly moved off the road.

That’s when we started calling that odd noise my “porcupine call.”

It wasn’t until several years later that I wasn’t the only critter who could make that sound. While hunting in Otis one afternoon, I heard a strikingly similar squeal coming from a stand of trees near the tree stand I was walking toward.

“Who’s making my porcupine call?” I wondered. Then I set out, determined to find out.

Five minutes later, I found the squealing culprits: Two porcupines chased each other in circles, squealing as if I’d taught them the skill myself.

My friends still don’t entirely believe that story, and that’s fine. If I hadn’t been there, I might not believe it, either. And my colleague Aislinn Sarnacki actually has a video that shows porcupines fighting, and those porkies are making much different noises than mine did.

Still, I stand by my assertion, and my porcupine call. Now, do do me a favor: Go outside. Give it a try. See if you can speak porcupine. Pro tip: Make sure you don’t have any gum or candy in your mouth. If you do, you’ll probably choke on it when you start the all-important inhalation that will lead to a vigorous, believable squeal.

And do me another favor: Make sure you watch the video so you can see some of my colleagues and family members try to do their own porcupine calls.

So, what do you think? Can you squeal like a porcupine? Sure you can. (Or, at the very least, you can try). Feel free to send your videos to the email address below, and maybe I’ll share a few with readers in the weeks to come. One thing I’ll guarantee: You won’t sound any more ridiculous than any of us did.

This is our second installment of this quick-and-dirty guide series, during which I’ll periodically share some outdoor tips or skills with BDN readers.

If you have an idea for a future “quick and dirty guide” segment, send it to jholyoke@bangordailynews.com.


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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