Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Western Porcupines

Rose wrote that she had a pet Porcupine, and it thought that she was it’s mother.

Rose if you want to write anything about raising a Porcupine I would dearly like to hear the story. I’ve probably had every kind of a wild pet that a person could have, but I’ve never raised a porcupine.

Back in the early sixties, when I lived at Eel rock, we were coming home late, and in the middle of the dirt road was a Porky-pine waddling along. My dad stopped the car, jumped out, grabbed a limb from the side of the road, and herded the slow clumsy appearing porky-pine into the headlights. The animal seemed to be content to stand still in the road. We got out to look at it. When you got close, he would ball up and stick his soft fuzzy nose between his front legs where you couldn’t get to it. My dad got down on one knee and was looking at his face peering upside down at him. He got his knee just a little too close, and in the blink of an eye his knee had five quills in it. They seem like slow clumsy animals, but they can sure flinch fast. It almost seemed like he shot his quills. That is probably how the thought that they can “shoot their quills” got started.

When we got home we cut the quills in two, and pulled them out with pliers, The quills have barbs on them like microscopic fish-hooks. The old wives tale is that if you cut them in the middle it releases the pressure on the barbs and they pull out easier.

Most dogs on the ranch learned to leave porky’s alone. Some of the dumber dogs couldn’t resist trying to get even. They would come home with quill in their nose every time.

You can usually tell when you have porky-pines living in your neighborhood. The maple trees will have dead limbs on them. With closer inspection you will find that the fresh young bark in the treetops has been eaten. Porkys love maple bark.

Oregon, have you ever trapped a porky? I’ll bet you didn’t get much for the pelt.


Eel River Ernie said...

Porcupines used to get into our fruit trees on the ranch and do some damage so we always shot them whenever we found them in the trees. We also used to have a "Damnation" dog that just never learned to leave them alone. I always hated to help get them out of his muzzle cause you were likely to get bit.

I too would be interested in hearing about Rose's pet.

clarissa said...

Seems like it would be a handle-with-care sort of pet, doesn't it? Back in the early 70's I was walking in Garberville late one night and found a porcupine ambling up Maple Lane, slow and sure. Not much traffic in those days, at night anyway, and the critter seemed to know where it was going, so I watched a while and left.

Olm said...

Did Rose mention that on her blog? Couldn't locate it.
Wondering if her friend is an adult or juvenile.

Baby racoons and baby 'possums can be good pets, but they often go feral around the time that they reach sexual maturity. One day, you've the critter on your lap and it's nuzzling up to you; the next day, it's snarling and hissing and scratching and biting, and longing to be free.

Encountered an adult pet 'possum that stayed inside its keeper's jacket, and ate out of his hand. It loved pet store-bought crickets! That one had been hit and injured by a car, and a veterinarian identified it as brain damaged. It was very docile, and clung to its keeper.

I wanna play with an echidna!

Anonymous said...

I never caught much of anything I wasn't after except skunks. I hunted deer in Idaho and Utah and I think both of those states protect Porkies because it is the only animal that a person can catch by hand. Just a survival thing.


Anonymous said...

I smooth-talked a little porky-pine about a year ago on the road leading up from the South Spit. It was eating the tender new shoots of berry vines, looking peaceful and serene. I took about two dozen pictures and most of them were wonderful. He got up to leave at one point. I asked him to stay a little longer. He turned back to me and let me take two of the best wildlife pictures of my life.

I brought the camera home, and we looked at those porpentine pictures on my computer screen over and over again.

Than, sadly, my hard drive crashed before I backed up those pictures. I've never been so devastated by a computer foul-up.

I did close the barn door, though, after losing those wonderful porkypine pictures. (Better backup system, etc. etc.)

But I can still see them in my memory. And I know the little critter had a very lively personality. The closer I get to each critter, the more I realize each one has his or her own personality.

The mammals, anyway.

Rose said...

Porcupines eat bark, and ring and kill trees - or so the story went. So back in those days, the Forest Rangers killed them. They shot one, but the baby she was about to have were still alive, so they brought it to my dad who was a Biology Teacher. He brought it home, and I raised it with a doll bottle filled with milk (in the days before doll bottles had hard plastic nipples, these were more like regular baby bottles, only tiny. Woulda been in near mint condition because we didn't play with dolls, we had every animal imaginable)...

Anyway, like I said, he thought I was his Mom, followed me everywhere - you could pet him like a cat, he kept his quills down, and the underbellies are very soft.

Only had one mishap. My brother was just learning to walk and toddled over towards him. The driveway had a downhill slope so he gained a bit of momentum as toddlers do. That scared him (the porcupine), and he started to walk away, quills up. My brother stumbled into his back, and got a knee full of quills. That was pretty memorable! Pulling quills out is not an easy task.

When the porcupine became an adult, he wanted to go off and find other porcupines, so he left. Never saw him again.

It was a great experience. Would be illegal now, like so many other things. As far as I am concerned, that is tragic.

I've known alot of people who had raccoons and skunks as pets, they're very affectionate, though raccoons are a bit unpredictable as they get older, I am told.

That's my story. :)

Rose said...

Love those pictures, Ernie. So cute.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Rose.

I've been gone all day and I just came home. I checked the blog to see if you had written anything, but you hadn’t, so I went over to your blog, The Coffee Shop, to check and see if you had written anything there. You hadn’t so I came back here, and there was your reply! Okay, Okay, to much info…

I’ve seen some awfully cute pet coons, but I’ve never seen a grown up coon that was any fun. They all get hostile. A fixed male makes a fairly good pet, but no wild animal makes as good a pet as a dog or a cat.

But, thanks for your story. It has a very common ending. Most wild animals are returned to the wild. The problem is, we all love cute little baby animals, but just like teen age humans, at some point they become unbearable, and they have to go. (just kidding!)

Ernie Branscomb said...

Here's how to remove Porky Quills from your dog.

Contain your dog. A helper holding a leash will usually do but, depending on the dog, you may wish to muzzle the dog before proceeding. Go through the following steps for each quill you remove.

Pour plain white vinegar on the areas where the dog was stuck. This will help to loosen up the quills.

Snip the quill with the scissors. By snipping it, you will allow some of the air to escape thereby making it easier on you and your dog when it's time to pull it out.

Use your pliers or hemostats and get a good grip on the quill as close to the dog's flesh it's penetrated as possible.

Holding your pliers/hemostats with one hand, use the other hand to gently hold downward on the dog at the area where the quill is stuck as you gently but firmly pull the quill from the dog.

lodgepole said...

I ate porcupine on one occasion a long time ago. It wasn't so good...

I also remember a few potlucks where everybody's dogs ran off and came back with faces full of quills. That always livened up the situation. Multiple dogs with many quills each that had to be yanked. It was like a 3-4 person job. I'll never forget how unhappy the dogs were.

Carson Park Ranger said...

Great story from Rose.
I suppose that there are good reasons why we have such a narrow range of pets, but a porcupine takes gumption.

Just don't pet porcupines in the wrong direction.

Carol said...

Great porcupine stories! I bookmarked THE COFFEE SHOP.

Thank you for the tips on cutting the quills to let the air out. Each dog I have owned only had one quill get stuck in their nose to keep them away from the porcupines.

When I was a kid, I remember going to a baseball game in Orleans, MA, and someone had a baby skunk as a pet. Was he cute!

Which brings me to a story: Several years ago, I arranged to meet a friend at the Fortuna Theater to see Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. We met out in front of the theater, but she smelled like skunk. Being a good friend, I told her she smelled like skunk. She told me I was smelling the garlic popcorn that she was sneaking into the movie theater. I shrugged my shoulders,realizing she was my eccentric friend and we went inside the theater and sat down in the last row, center. I noticed that people would look at us and move away. She kept insisting it was the garlic popcorn and I tried some, but it still tasted like skunk. Eventually, the film broke and couldn't be spliced back together, so we were given movie vouchers and left the theater. Well, the next day, she called and said, sure enough, there was a skunk under her house.

Rose said...

That's funny, Carol.

By the way, there really is a group of us - regulars - who meet every morning at the coffee shop, and we really do solve all the world's problems every single morning. We don't agree on much of anything, but we have alot of fun hashing it out.

One of the guys is an ex-Greyhound driver. He has always wanted a bus, so he bought one on Ebay for thirty grand. Then he found a better one, and he bought that one for about eighty. It was some race team's bus, very nice.

Then he found an even better one. VERY fancy, all tricked out - a million bucks worth of upgrades, for three hundred thousand.So he bought that one. It has marble steps and is nicer inside than alot of houses.

So we joke that we will go on tour - The Solving the World's Problems Tour in that bus - and stop at a different coffee shop every morning...

Ahhh, we'll never do it, but it would be fun(ny!) Anyway, that blog is sort of to pick up some of that, a lighter side of politics, but it's hard to keep up more than one. Maybe it'll be more active later. :)