Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Porcupine Season Finale

Spring arrived all of a sudden this week. At High Scenic at sunset I found elderberry flower buds about to burst and Canada mayflower leaves unfurling from the earth. A pair of hermit thrushes claimed High Scenic and took a great interest in my sing-song conversations with them. The evening air resonated with drumming woodpeckers and chattering chickadees. Geese honked in the valley, and the spring peepers warmed up for the night's performance. On my last few visits I had seen only two porcupines each time, so expected, when I headed up on this golden evening, that I might be alone.

But no! Dangerous Dan, Little Fuzzy and Wee were all there. 
Dangerous Dan

A handsome fellow
Little Fuzzy thinking about getting up

Up, but not quite at 'em

And then Wee crawled out of his den:
 Poor little Wee! He has finally figured out that acorns are edible, but has not developed much skill in acorn handling yet. When he went over to get some advice from Dangerous Dan, he was rebuffed. Little Fuzzy gave him much the same treatment.

Little Fuzzy, Wee and Dan in the sunset light
Wee wandered off to amuse himself, and Dangerous Dan came over to visit me. He was not interested in the acorns on the ground, so I held out a handful. He snuffled them, then settled back on his haunches, placed his paw beneath my hand to support it, and picked up an acorn in his teeth, the first time a porcupine has done this since the days of Fretful.

As the light faded, Quirinus arrived from the woods to the north. He settled down near me for a snack.
Wee came over to inspect Quirinus' activities. The big porcupine ignored him, but Wee did not press his luck. Instead, he wandered over to me, and on a whim I held out a biscuit to him. Aha! A crunchy little biscuit. Wee took it and munched triumphantly! I cut him off at four, but he was eager for more. 

At last, in the gloaming, I heard a familiar humming—Burdock approaching from the northeast. I shone my headlamp and saw that Wee followed on his tail. When Burdock is almost to my seat, he turned to find Wee. As Burdock reared over him, I expected the little fellow to be repelled once again. To my astonishment, the rear turned into a lunge, and the two were engaged in porcupine play! The play was mostly silent, with just a few little whines. How I wished it were light enough to get some film footage, for whether or not porcupettes play with each other is a question that has interested me. Certainly, baby porcupines are very playful, but as solitary babies, do they have opportunities to play with other porcupines? Do they wrestle with their mothers?

Wee and Burdock romped and tumbled up and down the hillside and up and down a little hemlock tree. After fifteen minutes things deteriorated into squawks of complaint, as usually happens when kids play rough. I found them both in the hemlock tree, and Burdock was ready to climb down and come over for some biscuits.

This video of Burdock wrestling with his puppet friend will give some idea of what happened between Wee and Burdock on that dark night:

It was after 9 by then, so I packed up to head home. As I did, I saw a big porcupine ambling across the ledge above me—Big East. My first six porcupine night! This was an evening of many firsts, but would also prove to be the last porcupine night of the 2016 season. The next night, Little Fuzzy, whom I expect is the sole female of the group, had moved out. Dangerous Dan was there. The next night, no porcupines were there at all, though Quirinus wandered over later to see if I had any acorns for him. Now the High Scenic porcupines will spend the growing seasons out foraging in the forest, and I will see them only by lucky chance.

No comments:

Post a Comment