Our resident porcupine hides from my camera, but really he is very bold and likes us to know who he thinks owns this place. We met our squatter the day we got the keys to the cottage. He waddled down the drive in front of the car, looking behind him and letting us know that he was not impressed by the intrusion onto his property!
He loves to sit in the oak trees here and we will often see him sitting in one. It makes it rather hard to photograph him and we almost get the feeling that it is deliberate on his part! He is happy to appear as we leave and escort us off the property. He waddles in front of the car, showing us the way out, but it is normally dusk or dark and he is safe from the lady with the camera in hand.
Last fall we had to take down a dead tree that was in danger of taking out our dock if it fell, which may have been the result of his munching. I discovered that porcupines eat the bark of trees and severe girdling of the tree bark will kill the tree. We have another dead tree on the property where we can clearly see a ring of missing bark, which is obviously the work of a porcupine. We have left that one in place for the wildlife, as it isn’t causing any issues for us at the moment.
In researching about the porcupine I found it mentioned that porcupines can cause damage to wooden structures and buildings. The bottom of our outhouse door has been seriously gnawed. Porcupines do not hibernate, so it is possible that our outhouse was an inviting winter shelter. However, I suspect it has also been used by other animals, because there is also evidence of digging to get under the door. We are always a little cautious when opening that outhouse door. We never know who we may meet inside!
My research mentioned another interesting fact about porcupines eating wooden structures and that is how they are attracted to plywood. They love salt and the glue in plywood contains salt, as do many wood preservatives. Fence posts coated in creosote and even objects covered in human sweat are attractive to porcupines in the winter or early spring, when their natural food sources are in short supply. I found mention that porcupines have been known to eat through cottage floor boards and walls and even canoe paddles are not safe. That isn’t good news for us as we have our canoe stored under the cottage for the winter and that is probably a great place for the porcupine to shelter and discover a handy snack at the same time!
Whilst we enjoy seeing wildlife at the cottage, having a resident porcupine is also a mixed blessing for us because of our pet dog. With up to 30,000 barbed quills built into its coat, we are rather worried that one day the two will have an encounter and we know who will come off worst! Thankfully our dog shadows me and doesn’t tend to go off far from me on her own. During the day we are not as worried about the two of them meeting, but we try and keep her indoors after dusk when the risk of an encounter is higher. Porcupines are nocturnal and do most of their travelling around during darkness. Once we see the porcupine in a tree, he remains there all day resting and we can relax knowing he is out of harm’s way.
A future issue I can see I may have with our prickly friend is that during the summer they can also damage fruits, vegetables and succulent plants. I would like to plant some fruit trees and some vegetables and I can see that I am going to need to start by making a very secure area. I was anticipating having to fight with keeping the deer out, but now I can see that I will probably need something a little more fortified than I first imagined. Porcupines are excellent climbers and it seems that the only solution may be an electric fence to deter them or an enclosed cage to grow vegetables in, rather like an aviary.
With all these strikes against the porcupine, some may suggest that we contact pest control to trap and dispose of him. However, until there is clear evidence that he is a pest towards us, we want to try and share the space with him and see if we can find a way to live harmoniously together. We will try and take precautions so that we are not inviting him where we don’t want him and maybe next year a canoe shelter that isn’t a cosy home for our porcupine will be something we should consider building sooner rather than later.