a time when America is struggling with the mind-numbing complexities of tax preparation
and unknown rules of a massive health care plan, we at the Trew Ranch are having
Yes, here in the supposedly treeless plains where most
trees are planted and watered by hand in order to have shade or fruit, the many-needled
porcupine is causing damage.
The porcupine - Erethizon Dorsatum in Latin
- is fast becoming a continual pest.
This docile herbivore eats twigs,
leaves and green plants like skunk cabbage and clover in the spring, summertime
and fall. In wintertime, however, it eats the tender bark off your favorite peach,
pear, cottonwood or apricot tree, leaving limbs or trunks bare to the wood. The
exposed part dies the next spring, leaving an ugly or dead tree.
uninvited nocturnal guest is sneaky. It is not aggressive and will attack only
if threatened. Its only defense is an estimated 30,000 needle-like quills growing
on its outer skin.
The animal will make a den in holes in the ground,
hollow trees and decaying logs.
It does not hibernate, and is a good swimmer,
tree climber and a very elusive rodent.
Down through the years, I have
had to remove porcupine quills from dogs,
automobile tires and fellow humans. Once imbedded, body heat makes the quill swell
and difficult to pull out. I've heard cutting the ends off the needles, thus eliminating
suction, helps. I couldn't tell any difference when I tried the option.
Science states the porcupine is the only North American animal with quills. The
quills are actually modified hairs with a sharp point. It's not true that they
can "throw quills," but they can slap their tail in defense, leaving their victim
punctured and in pain.
If they quill themselves by accident, the points
have their own antibiotic to prevent infection to the host.
quills are the oldest form of Native American embroidery used as decorations for
clothing, knife scabbards and pocket articles. They can be dyed, sewn on skin
or cloth, and designed in a most attractive fashion. Examples are shown in many
Native American exhibits.
Porcupines are neither varmints nor vermin.
They don't compete with livestock for forage or destroy crops.
don't circle a tree completely, but can cause severe damage especially to young
and tender saplings.
Thankfully, they usually have only one offspring and
seldom become numerous in one locality.
All domestic and most wild animals
remember their one experience with a porcupine and give it a wide margin the next
Though I always try to leave Mother Nature alone, I do eliminate
porcupines when I have the chance.
For those who say, "In this modern
world, anything is possible," I suggest trying to milk a porcupine or dribble
a football. I will say I have great admiration for those porcupines who wish to
29 , 2010 Column © Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.