This month Canyon Blog thought he’d touch (gently for reasons soon to be obvious) on one of his favorite and most overlooked Little Cottonwood residents, the porcupine. The idea occurred to him last week while skinning up Albion basin between the summer road and Catherine’s area on a sunny and uncrowded day.
Minding his own business and generally enjoying the quiet mountain solitude your correspondent stumbled into the forest havoc remnants of erethizon dorsatum (the scientific name for the north American version). As you can see, when a porcupine decides it’s time to party pine style, they mean business. What really happens at this time of year is porcupines will strip bark and other parts of pine trees in order to carry themselves through to later spring and summer when they turn to softer plant life for nutrition. And no doubt improved flavor…
Most people think porcupines hibernate, but they don’t. They spend their wintertime hunkering down through the weather in sheltered locations and climbing trees to forage among the available pinecones and whatever criteria they use to determine a tasty bough, though how they choose heaven knows.
This guy, who’d clearly moved on the day previous, spent considerable time on the lower parts of this tiny grove just below Wolverine Peak.
A few cool facts should you choose to use this month’s blog to impress your friends: Their famous quills cannot be hurled or projected at anyone, not even politicians. But they are easily detached on contact. And they are not easily removed once imbedded because they have hundreds of barbs just to make the “point” that you don’t want to connect with them.
They will rattle their quills to warn you if you’re pissing them off. They can also emanate an unpleasant odor as a warning. It’s only when all else fails that they’ll back their way toward a predator, or an evil Park City skier.
They can live up to 30 years, making them one of the longest-lived rodents in the wild.
And finally, your correspondent’s favorite, a litter of young and their mother are referred to as a prickle. Intuitive perhaps, but one can hardly be expected to have pulled that term out of the ether.
No doubt happier grazing days are ahead for our Albion pine mauling friend, as evidenced by this last photo captured during Canyon Blog’s wanderings last summer along Emma Ridge. As our skiing season changes to hiking erethizon dorsatum will leave the firs and bristle cones for the grass and meadows of your favorite canyon so watch your step when you come to visit and stay in our beautiful lodgings. Book your trip today! We’re looking forward to seeing you.