For any family, friends, classmates, or blog reader of extended time- you all probably know my Big 3: Black bear, flying squirrels, and porcupines. I've had numerous accounts with the bears and squirrels. They're common-ish where I live in NY, if you know where and what to look for. The porcupine has been the bane of my existence this past year. In every field guide that I've looked in, they're "in range" in Western NY. I guess that doesn't mean that they're common, but they've been spotted before near where I live in the Finger Lakes, even by reliable close sources!
So I KNEW that when I came to Alaska, I'd have opportunity to see them. It's been 4 weeks, and I think I saw one on Friday night as we were whizzing down the Sterling Highway. Or it was a tire. But people here hate them because they are pests! I'm sure people in NY hate them too, but they're considered pests here because they ARE so common. People were in disbelief that I hadn't actually seen one here yet, where I live on the refuge. One guy who lives here, was telling me just before I arrived in May, he rode his bike down the hill (where this story unfolds) and saw at least 10 porcupines in this little field all grazing one night. 10! I don't think he was kidding, maybe embellishing, but serious that multiple 'pines were out grazing together. What DO you call a herd of porcupines anyway???
I've gotten into the habit of going down to the lake here each night to be "one" with nature. I am trying my hand at birding, and I don't know what else to do other than sit still late in the day with a camera and binoculars. The mosquitos are almost winning ...I may or may not need a blood transfusion tonight, even with long sleeves, pants, socks over pant cuffs, bug net, and bug spray (98% deet...). I finally couldn't stand them anymore and decided to walk back up the hill and go to bed.
About halfway back, I see a lump in the road. I literally stopped walking, and swore out loud because I could not believe my eyeballs.