Living the life of a porcupine

Living the life of a conservation officer is truly a blessing. I doubt very much if any other occupation can bring you so close to the natural world. I have come across the most odd fish of all (the Gar Pike of the St. Lawrence River), the rare inland bird that is the Dovekie, and the Canadian porcupine. The latter is a creature completely different from just about any other species of wildlife in Canada. My first meeting with this creature was one I won’t forget, and not only because of the four quills it left in my ankle. 

I can’t think of any other wild animal that would not take off to the woods when scared, or take off when scared. The domiciliary porcupine simply rolls itself into a small ball, or puts it head down and tail up. If you meet up with a porcupine and see this happen, keep well clear of it, as one brush from its tail will give you a lifelong encounter to remember. (I’m not talking fondly.) 

Basically the quills are controlled by inner muscles on the porcupine’s body. Normally the needles will lie flat on the back of the porcupine. Once frightened or encountered by another animal, the muscles tighten and the quills stand upright. I once saw a coyote attack a porcupine and within seconds the coyote jumped away with about 100 or more quills suck into its mouth, nose,eyes and neck. Three days later I found the coyote dead and took it into the lab for an autopsy. Due to the composition of each quill, the more the coyote attempted to scratch away the quills, the further the quills moved into its body, striking vital organs and ultimately killing the coyote.

One may wonder how a female porcupine can give birth to such a critter. Actually, while the unborn porcupine is still in the female, the quills are very soft. Only after the porcupine gives birth and the quills are dry, do they become sharp as a needle.

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