“Bowlegged and pigeon-toed, the porcupine slowly ambles along, swinging its fat body from side to side, muttering to itself.” –Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Ah, porcupines. Their scientific name, Erethizon dorsatum, translates to “the irritable back.” They are solitary creatures that enjoy grazing on whatever vegetation they can get their big chippers on. Weighing in at around 20 lbs, covered in long quills, and reeking of a unique smell that has been likened to blue cheese, they are absolutely irresistible to dogs. When they aren’t waddling around tempting dogs into surprise piercings, they lounge in treetops, pretending to be nests.
Their quills are fascinating, sparking a diverse collection of folk tales. Some lore claims that porcupines once sported luxurious coats, until one porcupine’s vanity doomed the rest of the species to their prickly coat. Another tale claims that a clever porcupine donned hawthorne branches to protect himself from a bear, and was rewarded by a benevolent spirit with a permanent coat of thorns.
All speculation aside, it was probably evolution. It’s interesting to note that in contrast to Old World porcupines, New World porcupines have an antibiotic skin! This development is attributed to their ability to climb trees. Because falling out of trees increases their likelihood to prick themselves, they need an antibiotic to save them from themselves. (Who doesn’t?)
During the summer season, porcupines are tucked safely away from the hustle and bustle of camp. They find refuge in their thickets and trees, munching and lounging away like we all wish we could. Those blessed with a keen hunters’ eye, can sometimes spot them during the off season, eating of course.