I couldn’t help but laugh at myself this weekend as I was hiking with my dog and a friend. We kept coming across all sorts of *neat* things, and I kept exclaiming, “This is so neat!”… Am I a Lenny Peppercorn?
We have a few state forests around us within easy driving distance (Mallet Pond, Patria, and Petersburg State Forests) that we’ve explored for field labs during various courses, and we decided to try and get as far into the state land as possible. This was a challenge though, because many of the roads within are seasonally maintained, and this is not the season they are maintained.
We first tried to get to Rossman-Fly Pond (which is within Mallet Pond State Forest), a beautiful pond with access to launch a motorless boat. I like to think it’s a hidden gem, but I know others have to know about it. I really want to get up and check the ice out, but unfortunately the plow had stopped a mile or two from the turn off to the pond. We got out and hiked a bit with the dog in the snow, but I’ve been experiencing a flare up from an old ankle injury, and didn’t want to push it.
LUCKILY though, we observed something really neat from the side of the unplowed road. Lots of field sign that a porcupine or several, had been foraging in the hemlocks!
Porcupines are a solid critter, not as chunky as a beaver (but close), and not as light as a squirrel. So, they’ll eat their way along a sturdy branch, moving farther and farther from the tree. They are sloppy, and often drop as much as they eat. They nip a twig off, and it falls to the forest floor.
I’ve read (somewhere) that porcupines are often relied on by other forest-dwelling herbivores who can’t reach up into the canopy to eat. Deer, rabbits, hares, moose have all been documented eating porcupine “nip twigs” from the forest floor.
We were intrigued. Could we possibly actually catch a glimpse of the porcupine?
I did NOT want my dog to get a face full of quills. Tyler, well he was on his own, but I didn’t want Addie to get quilled. So we pulled her back, and I sacrificed myself to get down in there and investigate.
My first observation, was the overwhelming stench of ammonia. It reminded me of my pet rabbits cage. Porcupines are nasty animals, in the way that they defecate when and where they want. Many animals attempt to keep their dens clean of fecal matter, but not the porcupine. Check out this entry from last winter when I found a den, and the amount of built up porky poop outside: http://blog.timesunion.com/nywildlife/porcupine-sign/887/
So that’s one of my *neat* finds from this past Saturday. I have another really cool story, but I’m saving that for another entry. I’ve been reading for hours, and just thought I’d take a break to share this cool story. Hae a great Monday!