Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chomp, Chomp, Chomp in the Night

These last few nights, we have been wakened up a few times by a gnawing sound. The first few times I did not venture out to see what it was, because it was pitch dark, and, for all I knew, it might have been Ruthie, the local black bear. But the last time it happened, it was dawn, and there was already a fair bit of daylight, so I set out to investigate taking my camera along. It turned out that the racket was made by a porcupine chewing on a piece of plywood!

I don’t know why they find plywood tasty, but they do. Perhaps they get high on the glue. Cardboard is another favorite. There were a few empty cardboard boxes in the wood shed, and he/she has eaten half of them. If we are to believe our grandfathers, what they used to like best of all to chew on was the seats of outside toilets. You would think you could not hear a porcupine chew from inside a stone house, but windows were open and they are quite noisy, especially since there is no outdoor noise here at night, except animal noises.

Apparently, the real danger with their chewing is in winter when salt is spread on roads. They are reputed to like chewing on car tires, because of the salt residue on them, and of course they go through the tires. This might be a myth – I don't know anyone to whom it has actually happened. Do you?

They don’t seem very nervous. This one looked at me for a minute or so, making sure his/her back and tail were facing me, and then decided to move on. They are slow and rather awkward on the ground, but once they get to a tree, they are in their element. They climb up very fast, even when there are lots of branches in the way. They can also swing from tree to tree, hanging on branches like a prickly monkey.

The very first time we came here after having bought the property twenty years ago, we were camping, and our dog Margot attacked a porcupine. It was already dark, and we heard this terrible yell. The porcupine was fine, but the dog had barbs through her tongue and through her cheeks. She was extremely miserable, and I remember that the vet's bill was very high. Apparently dogs fall into two categories. Once they have attacked a porcupine they either learn their lesson and leave them well alone, or they get mad whenever they see one and want to get their revenge. Fortunately, we never had another opportunity to test which category Margot would have fallen into.

One year we were woken up by porcupines that were making a very different kind of noise  just under the window. We looked out, and they were making love! It was the noisiest prolonged moaning I have ever heard.


  1. Wow, Alain, you must spend many a night gathering information that only can be acquired at night. Most interesting things go "bump" in the night. Thanks. Shall we call you nighthawk?

  2. Hi Marlene,
    I am a sound sleeper but they can be very noisy! I think there are more than one living around here.

  3. Porcupines used to eat tires because of the salt in them. My mother has a story.

  4. You will have to tell us that story.

  5. Porcupines! Always thought they would be nice critters to have around but then when you think of the damage to property they can do and the damage to dogs I'm thinking maybe not so nice!
    We get Otters here and it's taken us 10 years to figure out that it's the otters that are responsible for the loss of our Koi every other year. It seems we must have a breeding pair at the nearby beach/cove and every 18 months or so the youngsters set off in search of their own territory. Our property is in their direct route to the lochs so they help themselves to snacks along the way - they completely ate the lot last time so we're not replacing them in the lake.

  6. Hi Linda,
    All these animals are nice to have around but they all come with drawbacks (I suppose it is like a marriage -ha ha ha). Still, we are lucky to be able to live close to nature.

  7. Replies
    1. You bet they are painful. These barbs actually went through, from the inside to the outside, of the poor dog's cheeks and through her tongue. They are like fish hooks. She had to be put under general anesthetic to have them removed.

  8. Thanks for stopping by. Your flowering rocks are lovely. All that grows in the cracks of our sidewalk is grass, although I found moss and a tiny seedling in a knot hole of one of the steps from the lower level. Absolutely perfect.

    1. You would think this yellow stonecrop is native as it is growing everywhere around here. It is strange how all the most common plants are from somewhere else!

  9. We see traces of porcupines in our forest, especially in winter, but I'm glad to say they don't seem to come close to the house. We had a dog years ago who attacked porcupines 3 times and had to be escorted to the vet for quill removal each time before she finally learned. She was otherwise a very bright dog. Sheri


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