The Porcupine Tree

In my preteen years, coming home from the family cottage North of North Bay, I used to catch glimpses of porcupines at 60 miles/hour (that was before Canada was metricised). They were seen gnawing on the highway guardrail posts as the posts had salt residue on them from Winter road maintenance. Those, despite entire Summers spent running about the bush at the cottage, were the only times I ever saw them. It wasn’t until I was married and in my twenties before I saw one up a tree in the Northumberland County Forest. A pretty penny’s worth of film was expended that morning.

Then, a few more decades passed until just last week when Ranger and I spotted something up in a tree just off the roadside, North of Port Hope. We backed up and took a better look, but quickly left it in peace as I had foolishly neglected to bring my camera.


If only that would do it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked out without a camera and later admonished myself for being so stupid. However, I lucked out this time as porcupines will usually choose and congregate in a Winter den.  The wife wanted to see a porcupine as for us, spotting wildlife is amongst the top three reasons for living.  So, off we went to see if it was still there two days later.  We left the car some distance from the spot Ranger and I had seen it from, and proceeded down the road on foot.  The first sighting wasn’t terribly impressive.  It was balled up with its head tucked under its chin up against the tree trunk.  You can see a hole in the trunk which one might assume it would crawl into but for whatever reason, it hadn’t.  They will feed, hence be visible, in daylight during the Winter, but remain nocturnal in the Summer.  Obviously, they don’t hibernate.



We continued walking past and put some distance between it and us, to give it a break.  From a distance we thought we saw another vehicle stop on the road near the den-tree.  They had a dog running around outside the vehicle so we hoped they hadn’t spotted the porcupine.  When we got back, the vehicle was gone and the porcupine had its head pushed into the hole in the tree with its rather formidably armed butt-end sticking out.  Not the most dignified of poses, but would you wanna mess with that ?


The next day, we drove by just to look in on it, and it gave us this adorable photo op.


You gotta love that sweet little face with the punkrocker haircut !  And, if you look into the hole in the tree trunk, you’ll see the quills of another porcupine in the den.  For all we know, that tree may be full of porcupines, as they will congregate in the Winter.  At any other time they’re completely solitary. So this is a good time of year to look up into the trees as you walk since your chances of seeing one or more is greatly increased.  How do they avoid quilling each other ?  Apparently, very very carefully, and by seemingly ignoring each other’s existence in the very den they’re sharing.  Funny little fellas eh ?  We’ll keep a watch on these ones through the Winter.


UPDATEJan 2/15Yesterday, while taking a stroll past the den, a car stopped and the driver asked if we were watching the porcupines.  I thought we’d discovered an unknown, but it turns out the guy has been observing them for a number of years.  He said the den is only big enough for the female and her porcupette (baby).  He told us how the male sat on the branch outside the hole throughout last year’s ice storm and such, and was covered in snow and ice.   We’ll drop by from time to time this Winter just for a look-in.  But we’ll pay particularly attention around April when the young should show up.  With luck I’ll have some baby pictures for you then.  


  1. and the other two reasons?


  2. I could tell ya Bruno, but this is a family blog. LOL


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