Tuesday was a beautiful winter day. Skies were clear and blue with temps in the low 40s. We decided to take a hike up Tekoa Mountain in Westfield. Although the snow was soft, making hiking tiresome, it was perfect for tracking. Along our hike we found deer, bobcat, and porcupine tracks. In fact, we found lots of porcupine sign. There was scat and there was plenty of hemlock bows scattered on the snow.
Now porcupine tracks in deep snow are not what you would really call tracks. With their short little legs, they more snow plow than walk through the forest. But, follow the trail and there will be no doubt it’s a porcupine. The trail will move from hemlock groves to rocky hillsides.
In the hemlock grove you will find sure signs of the feasting rodent, hemlock bows under most trees. As well as scat, small and oval. Porcupines will climb hemlocks and then reach out and chew off the ends of branches. They prefer the younger growth at the ends of these branches, so they will nibble them off and drop the older growth to the ground. As you might imagine, its too much work to climb down to use the bathroom, so down falls the scat as well. I guess it goes without saying, be careful when in a active porcupine grove.
Follow the trail away from the hemlocks and you will eventually come to a large rock pile. The porcupine has made his den down deep under some rock. If you crawl down in, you’ll know when you have found the den from the smell. Porcupines themselves smell, but they are also terrible housekeepers. Their den is also their latrine. Although they might stink, they are still worth the search. So if you find yourself out on a fine, winter day, go look for the signs of the porcupine.
Cover Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9928288
Body photos by Tom and Nancy Condon