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A final prickly surprise

On our last afternoon at the Schoodic Institute we were dealing with laundry for our upcoming several days touring in New England. On the way back from the laundry room we came across this little creature waddling towards us. It was a porcupine! It kept coming towards us, even as we were backing away. Clearly it had some place to be.

Small brown mammal walking along a paved pathway towards the camera
Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatus) at the Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park
@ Allison J. Gong

I don't know whether or not porcupines are always this nonchalant around humans. This one crossed the road in front of us and headed off into the woods. And look, it's plantigrade!

And then it nibbled on a few leaves and climbed a tree! Note how it uses the tail as a brace, the way woodpeckers do when they're hopping up and down trees.

We had to meet up with the rest of the Earthwatchers for a celebration event in the classroom and didn't get to keep watching this porcupine. However, on our way to the dining hall for dinner, we saw the same animal, on the ground again. And this time she was accompanied by a baby! It was getting dark by then and I didn't want to bother either mama or baby, so didn't take any additional photos or video.

We never did see any moose in New England, despite all the road signs promising "Moose X-ing next <insert positive integer> miles", but seeing a porcupine was pretty dang cool. What a terrific send-off from the Schoodic Institute wildlife!

5 thoughts on “A final prickly surprise

  1. peigimccann

    I remember these being prolific in the Sierra Nevada in the 70s and 80s and then gradually diminishing. They were very tame. My dog learned the hard way to avoid them! They would regularly crew on cabin decks if people had made homemade ice cream outside, it was the salt!

    1. Allison J. Gong

      I suppose it makes sense for them to be pretty chill around people, since they have such a fantastic defense. Well-protected animals tend not to be as wary as undefended ones. My first ever sighting of a porcupine in California was at Taylor Creek in South Lake Tahoe. That was a mama nursing a baby in a tree.

  2. Sarah Wang

    I'm really worried that it's living so close to a road, that's my 1st thought! :-() I see so many roadkills while driving. Poor animals don't know how to cross our roadways, and we are everywhere.

    1. Allison J. Gong

      They do get hit often, because they haven't evolved a fear of cars. Their predators are deterred by the quills, and the poor porcupines don't understand threats that aren't.


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