One of the joys of working with landowners and looking at land for conservation is the chance to explore special places in the outdoors. Much of the work of land conservation is done at a desk – preparing documents, reviewing reports, and talking on the telephone. Then the sunny day comes and you MUST go out to see properties in person.
Last summer there came such a day. I was in Sandisfield, walking around a property, looking for any signs of wildlife, finding the boundaries, hoping there were no piles of debris, tires, or old bed springs.
Walking down a steep slope, watching my footing, I heard a sound. I stopped suddenly and looked up.
Directly in front of me was a startled porcupine. Porcupines are near-sighted and slow moving, and generally they are active at night. They spend most of their time on the ground. However, in the summertime, they like to rest in trees. This one decided to keep on climbing, getting farther away from whatever danger she thought might be coming her way.
The famous porcupine quills, about 30,000 per critter, are lightly attached to the porcupine’s skin. They come off easily if the porcupine encounters a predator (fishers are the primary ones). With few predators, porcupines are known to live as long as 18 years. Their babies are born during April and May. Babies have soft quills which harden with exposure to air.
Porcupines are plant eaters (actual vegans). They dine on bark, stems, nuts, tubers, seeds, grass, leaves, fruit, and buds. If you see a porcupine, you are lucky because they are shy and nocturnal. Enjoy the view but don’t try to pat one!
–Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist