Saturday, May 16, 2009

Porcupine in Bolton

Thanks to Pandora (who scented it but did not actually find it thankfully) Teresa has found a baby porcupine in Bolton. That is a pup or 'porcupette' for those who want to know these things. Partially hidden under a log for a few weeks I had the fortune to visit many times, even catching the mom visiting. Some help and searching led to the discovery of the den a couple of hundred of yards off, up and over the hill. More help and searching and much evidence of feeding on trees was found. As expected, baby is now traveling with mom and has not been seen.


  1. Pretty darlin' critter there, Teresa! Even the name is cute. Sounds like it could be a member of a singing group: "The Porcupettes." So glad to know we have porkies in Bolton; I just hope Pandora doesn't pass the word to the other town dogs.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Teresa. This is very interesting news, because it is the first time, to my knowledge, that anyone in this group has found clear evidence of current porcupine activity in Bolton. Someone who has lived in Bolton for many years told me that porcupines were common here about 20 years ago, then gradually disappeared. Assuming this is accurate, we can only speculate on why the decline.

    I went to visit this "porcupette" once with Teresa, and was fascinated with how its location compared with that of the winter dens we had been visiting at Quabbin all winter.

    The porcupine's dietary and denning preferences change with the seasons, so the animals move around accordingly. In winter, they favor nooks and crannies amongst rocks for denning, but will also use tree cavities, and enjoy hemlock buds, leaves, and bark for food. In early spring, they leave the wintering habitat in search of the swelling buds and young leaves of certain hardwoods. In non-winter months, adults don't use dens - they usually sleep in trees.

    A mother gives birth to a single baby in spring. Its den is usually on the ground (babies cannot climb), often at the base of a hollow tree, but under any sort of shelter such as a log or rocky overhang. Mother does not stay with baby. During the day, while baby sleeps in the den, mother usually sleeps in a nearby tree. At night she comes down to nurse baby periodically, while she comes and goes to feeding trees. Eventually, baby begins to follow her around at night, waiting at the base of her feeding tree until it is able to climb.

    I would say that the space under the log where you kept seeing the baby during the daytime WAS the natal den. The tree den you have pictured above had only old scats. It might have been used by mother in the past, perhaps this past winter. In fact, near that den was a hemlock bearing sign of heavy porcupine feeding, suggesting that this was its winter home. Also near it was sign of porcupine bark feeding of at least a year old (already completely grayed) so I would guess she was in that same spot the previous winter as well.

    The most interesting thing to me was the lack of niptwigs or bark feeding in the immediate vicinity of the natal den. So what was the mother eating during those first few days after birth, when she would not want to wander far from the baby? The forest floor near the den was covered with sugar maple seedlings, the spring buds of which are a great favorite on the porcupine's menu. I would guess that she had been eating the buds right off those conveniently located seedlings, obviating the need to climb trees and nip twigs. In fact, some of those seedlings appeared to have been browsed.

    For a great book on natural history of the porcupine, see: The North American Porcupine by Uldis Roze

  3. Oh my goodness gracious- THAT IS CUTE!