Despite a frigid temp and wind chill in the negative numbers, today was a day to head out the door and check on an old friend or two. I wasn’t sure I’d find either, but since so many work from home these days it was worth taking a chance.
Two years ago there was evidence that the first had spent some time sleeping in the den, but on that day, though I knocked and knocked, no one answered the door.
This morning, however, I spotted the family name hanging on a shingle right by the front door and suspected a greeting in my future.
Beads of sap accessorized a brand new tapestry of grooves that spelled out Erethizon dorsatum, aka North American Porcupine. And my heart began to sing. Maybe. Just maybe.
To the front door I again ventured. And noted that familiar pattern of tracks on the welcome mat. Maybe. Just maybe.
My heart stilled. After years of stalking a variety of porcupines, this was a first for me–to actually spy one within its winter den. And in so doing, I garnered a keen look at its quill-covered backside and tail. A porcupine’s body is covered with at least 30,000 quills on its back, shoulders and the upper surface of its tail, but it’s not only those large stiff hairs that complete the animal’s coat. Their fur also includes fine hair as you can see in the mix here.
We visited for a bit, but I soon realized our conversation was one-sided–me asking questions and answering for my friend who slept quietly in hopes of gathering energy for a night-time feeding frenzy.
Eventually, I moved along the trail, that is until I noted where my friend, or one of its kin, had crossed and descended down the steep ledge, a path I chose not to take.
Turning in the opposite direction, I decided instead to follow a track which turned into an intersection of roadways–all created by my friend.
Step into the living room as I did today. By the dropped hemlock twigs, I recognized the carpet design on the floor.
Angle-nipped twigs were part of the room’s wall decorations.
Dribbles of pee, and there were lots of them, added to the aura, some of it a few days old.
Other samples were more recently shared.
And scattered among it all, like dust-bunnies in any room . . . SCAT!
Upon a hemlock frequently visited for that’s what porcupines do, frequent the same tree year in and year out that is, I spied claw marks indicating the staircase upon the uneven bark substrate.
And so it was that because I was in the vicinity, I decided to check on my other friend who lives about a tenth of a mile away. The last time I visited in November 2020, it was obvious that my pal had been by, though I couldn’t say exactly the last time this bedroom had been used.
Spotting a track in the right locale, I decided to see where it might lead.
Bingo. Tracks and even a few scats led to a small opening below the boulder.
Like with my other friend, on hands and knees I went and was well rewarded.
Notice how porky friend one and two both had their tails facing out–a defensive move incase a predator shows up and needs a little needling to remind it of who is boss. But . . . being a friend, I felt honored to be able to spend a few minutes with each–neither of us disturbed by the other.
Having spent that time with those two friends, I did feel a bit of porcupine greed and went in search of several other friends located in different areas. I really wanted an eye-to-eye meeting like this one in January, but still . . . today I was blessed with a tail-end greeting of my porky friends and who can complain about such?
8 thoughts on “Tail-end Greetings”
I often wish I could get a load of their manure for my garden. It looks plentiful and rich. 🙂
Hmmm. More so in summer probably when they switch from the cambium layer of trees to vegetation. Any ledgy areas near you? Or old barns? One has resided under our barn for years, but ledgy areas are where I most often find evidence. And you could then easily gather the goodies. I could send you some 😉
🙂 Our ledges are about a mile away, too far for me to bring a load down through the woods. Easier to visit a local farm, I’d say!
Keep your eyes open for hemlock twigs carpeting the forest floor and you may discover a den located closer to home. Soon, however, they’ll transition to their spring/summer diet of buds and other vegetation. And then you’ll have to look for scat in fields.
LikeLiked by 1 person
How wonderful to find two at home in their dens. Well done.
They actually live rather close to you, MY!
re; Tail-End Greetings. Thanks you for inviting me along for a visit to the porcupine’s home. I love the way they amble about. Despite a prickly surface, they’re warm, furry, and friendly underneath. But how can I keep them out my barn and house? They arrive when I’m not there! Dan
LikeLiked by 1 person
Oh, I hear your question and my guy asks the same. But don’t you think we need to remember this was their home before we made it ours? Perhaps they wonder how to keep us out?
Comments are closed.