Written By Stefni Krutz.
Posted on November 27th, 2019.
The word porcupine comes from the old French word porcespin, meaning thorn pig.
I love porcupines. It’s mostly those fascinatingly sharp quills, but also their calm personalities. They have an arsenal of tens of thousands of barbed points on their backs. This allows them to be calm as they wander about the landscape since they don’t have to worry as much about predators.
The word porcupine comes from the old French word porcespin, meaning thorn pig. They are also sometimes called quill pigs. A mostly nocturnal animal, they eat leaves, twigs, fruit, and other vegetation. In the winter, they will eat bark.
Sometimes they eat houses. I was awakened one night to a rhythmic sound just under my window in the Uintah Mountains of Utah. It was a porcupine chewing on the cabin. They’ve also been known to chew axe handles and the like, which have human sweat soaked into them, when they’re craving salt.
In late winter we began noticing beech trees that had been debarked, but it took a while to see the culprit.
Thorn Pig the Beech Muncher walking beside a beech tree it has debarked
Thorn Pig the Beech Muncher gnawing on beech bark
The trail of Thorn Pig the Beech Muncher through the snow. Notice the debarked beech middle left.
More than twenty beech trees of small diameter, less than four inches, were debarked and killed by our little visitor.
Our property in Bloomville was high-graded before we became the owners. The landowner allowed a logger, reportedly a “friend of a friend”, to cut the wood without a forester or any direct oversight since it was a second home for them. The result was that this logger out of Downsville cut the large oak, cherry, and ash and left only those trees which were too ill-formed for sawtimber. Even under the aegis of two foresters, the forest will not produce another harvest of sawtimber in our lifetimes. But it will provide other benefits such as recreation, wildlife habitat, water filtration, and foraging.
I am more than happy if one of the wildlife benefits is to feed my favorite animal during the winter, even if it means the loss of a few small beech trees.