Posted by: Memorizing Nature | January 18, 2012

Path of a Porcupine

In our meadow lives a porcupine, a lone creature that chews on bark and descends into a rock crevice when the sun is up. I know he eats bark because some of our trees are stripped bare at the top, looking pale and smooth, and his tracks in fresh snow have made the location of his home obvious. He enters his hovel, exits, sometimes slides down a hill, and from time to time crosses the road. The little feet tell a story.

Photo by E. Medline

Porcupines are mostly nocturnal, so I don’t see our rodent neighbour often. The last time I ran into him was a couple of months ago, when I had to stop my car suddenly and wait while he stood blinking in the headlights, unsure. Eventually he moved along, disappearing into the dark ditch.
I like that he eats our trees. His presence reminds us that our land is not our own. Likely he was here before us, as porcupines last relatively long. That’s not surprising, given the medieval defense mechanism with its classic cruelty and evolved elegance. Despite their keratin quills, porcupines do have a few predators. Fishers are the vicious ones, tossing the prickly beings on their backs to attack the soft belly. 
The porcupine’s resting breath warms the air above his humble tunnel. Lying there, he breathes in and out, next to hibernating groundhogs and iced-in frogs. He wakes at the gloaming and emerges. I want to follow, but don’t, fearing I will ruin his tracks, and disturb his calm wanderings.
Notes to readers: Memorizing Nature has now been shortlisted for the juried Ninjamatics’ 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards in the nature category. Also, earlier I chose to black out this blog for 12 hours in solidarity with other WordPress bloggers and sites to protest proposed American legislation that would limit Internet freedom. It’s an important issue.


  1. Congratulations Elaine! Your writing is very special.
    I am so pleased I stumbled across this blog

    • Carl, thank you for your kind comments. Hearing that kind of feedback really keeps me motivated.

  2. We love porcupines! The kids look for them all nestled up in trees, so we didn’t know they lived underground too. Keep writing and good luck with the Weblog awards. We are cheering for you.

    • Yes! At first I thought the porcupine nested in a tree, and was surprised to learn he was more grounded. In any case, I think some porcupines do choose trees over rock crevices. Thanks for the good wishes, Gillian.

  3. It is good to know that Porcupine is survived in many continent . It is a usual visitor to my camp and rarely found in farms. Though it is a protected species in India, poaching still going own. There is a belief among our people that spike of the porcupine invite quarrel to the family. So nobody keeps the spike at home.
    A good nature watch Elaine . Welcome to western ghats of India, a biodiversity hot-spot .

    • Benny, porcupines do cover many areas of the world, although of course they’ve evolved differently depending on the continent. I can see why these animals would be susceptible to poaching as they move so slowly and their quills would be no match for a determined hunter. Checked out your website and the Western Ghats seem absolutely stunning – 500 bird species. No problem finding topics to write about there!

  4. I love porcupines too. We used to come across them all the time when we lived in the mountains of Colorado. I had no idea the denned in the ground. I like that you didn’t walk on his path.

    Your writing is so beautiful. I love coming here.

    • Healing Magic Hands, it’s true: we so often trash the tracks of others. That reminds me of my hippie-era primary school where the purple walls in the front hall were covered with posters of animal drawings accompanied by the words “Let It Be.” Why can’t we just leave things alone? I learned it then and I believe it now. People should check out your blog, one of the first I started following; it’s so full of honesty and humour.

  5. Congratulations!

  6. Congratulations, Elaine. Well deserved first place win. Keep ’em coming!

    • Thanks, Bruce. I’m working on the next post now. Usually need to get a nice photo before I start. Winter can be tough that way! Too much hibernation.

  7. We have porcupines by the dozens around here. They spend a lot of their time in the tops of hemlocks. We often see branch tips on the ground and look up to see them hanging onto a branch. It’s amazing how ambulatory they are on these narrow branches. Enjoyed this post very much. Thanks.

    • Their agility in the trees is surprising, because they just seem to lumber along when on ground. Everyone, Wild Bill’s blog is another of my favourites.

  8. Beautiful photography!,,,,,,

  9. how do you catch one in a catch ’em alive trap?.We want to relocate ours because he is killing so many trees.

    • It would be sad if the porcupine on your shared land had to leave the place where he or she is making a life.

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