In the kitchen

Search This Blog

Monday, May 21, 2018

the porcupine mafia

I can appreciate that for some the question of what to do with a bear cub-sized porcupine trolling around your property might have a simple answer.

Take, for instance, the gentleman in the vet's waiting room who imparted this advice: "Shoot, shoot, then shoot some more."

For others of us, it isn't so easy.

We are the people, after all, who spent an afternoon trying to reunite a liter of baby mice with its mother after we spooked her from her nest in our tomato planter one spring. She fled, abandoning her pinkies who were closed-eyed, hairless and not even half the size of my thumb. I placed the defenseless babies at the edge of the garage where the mother had darted and went inside to Google how to care for infant mice with a dropper.

Thankfully, the mother rescued her babies one by one during Ella's afternoon nap. Thankfully, because my research indicated they were only 1-2 days old. A mother of only a handful of years at the time, I was overcome with relief for the mother mouse.

There's a chance I have a tendency to anthropomorphise animals.

A few years later our house became home to mice that looked an awful lot like rats. We tried the have-a-heart traps and caught nothing.  We progressed to the 'ol bait and slap mouse/rat trap. Again, nada. We could hear them scurrying in the walls. Then one morning, I came downstairs and heard a largish critter jump noisily from the recliner and disappear, only to find it hiding under a throw pillow on the couch an hour later.

It was an effortless switch to Decon. The wall scampering and furniture surfing ceased.

But I didn't get any better at killing animals. It just isn't my thing. I don't want to kill them or eat them.

Fast forward to the end of our house build last spring. The painter, there at all hours, mentioned a very large porcupine hanging around the area near twilight and told us to watch out for our dog. We saw it only once after we move in and never again.

Until a couple weeks ago.

Piper and I were returning from an early morning run and there he was, caramel colored and massive, hunched and sloth-like not far from our mailbox, his quills bountiful and menacing.

Over the next few days, we discussed the porcupine as a family. The conversations would have been good fodder for a hunter's stand-up act.

"It doesn't seem fair to the porcupine. He was here first. We moved into his home."

"Who do we know with a gun?"

"Could we trap him an relocate him?"

"Think any of our neighbors have a gun?"

"I've been wanting to go to ladies night at the shooting range. Maybe this is my chance."

"I called so and so from work. He suggested a rifle and night vision goggles."

Maya was adamant that she didn't want the porcupine shot. We showed her pictures of dogs, anesthetized, with facefulls of quills. "Do you want that to happen to Piper?" We asked.

"Shoot the thing," was her instant reply.

After all, it all came down to Piper, our well-loved, well-behaved lab who wouldn't be able to leave a porcupine alone if her life depended on it.

I had a very enlightening conversation with a local animal trapper, an aged Mainer who told me he'd been trapping for 50 years. He told me porcupines are hard to trap, that they aren't motivated by food (he baits with salt) and because they're nomadic, he might not even come back to our property for months.

"What do you do with them when you catch them?" I asked, my heart sinking into my stomach.

"I can do whatever you want me to do with 'em," the man said, his voice as calloused as I guessed his hands to be. "Usually I pop 'em with a 22."*

First the guy at the vet, now this guy. My mind filled with images of a porcupine mafia. "Umm...can you relocate him instead?"

"Fuggedaboutit," the don said. "My associate and I will ice him as soon as we catch him and you cough up the dough."

No he didn't really say that. It was more like:  "Sure...sure. But I'm only s'posed to take him so many miles away from his habitat. As I said, porcupines are nomadic so he might come back. Then you'd never catch him again."

Ironically, two other gun-related things happened in this same week.

First, Sandi and I were watching one of the girl's events, sitting next to a lovely and very chatty grandmother who proceeded to tell us about her five year battle with menopause (she's on the other side now, you'll be glad to know) before a seamless transition to a slide show of dead deer, all shot by her,  and culminating with the whispered revelation that she was "packing a 33" while she padded her diminutive handbag for emphasis.

Maybe she would like to have a go at the porcupine?

Second, I heard a gun shot at 5:45 one morning far too close to our house for my comfort. Shortly after, a neighbor called to say he'd seen a hunter walking on the paved road in our wooded neighborhood carrying a rifle on his shoulder.  Though I didn't want a hunter near our house, was it too much to ask that maybe the hunter, frustrated by the lack of turkeys he was surely hunting, had seen a sloth of a porcupine and figured he'd be a fair replacement?

The neighborhood rallied to put up no hunting signs.  Totally on board, of course, I did wonder if we could wait until after our porcupine problem was solved.

People in the neighborhood started to referring to the porcupine as our porcupine. Things were going from bad to worse.

We decided to proceed with the trap. Two weeks went by with no activity except a neighbor spying our porcupine and commenting that there was no way that giant, spiked rodent was going to go into that too-small trap. We called the don and he put an infinitesimally larger trap (his biggest) out for us.

Good news! The next morning there was a porcupine in the trap! Bad news: it was the wrong porcupine.

What do you imagine, knowing what I've already told you about our history with pest animals, had happened?

Yup. We had trapped a baby porcupine. Shoot me now.

You won't be surprised that we couldn't give the don the green light to shoot the porcupine. We all voted for relocation. The trap has been reset in hopes to catch the big kahuna- not a "him" after all, but, the don assumes, the momma porcupine who will likely come around sniffing for her baby. He has promised he will take the momma to the same place he took the baby. It's also possible he thinks we're insane and no relocation has occurred. I try not to think about it but I do worry that, despite having paid the don to relocate the animal, a more sinister fate may have befallen it.

A hit. A whack. A knock off. A burn. A rub out. All euphemisms for murder. You never know with the porcupine Mafia. You never know.

*Disclaimer: all references to firearms in this post are likely incorrect. I take full credit and blame.
Site Meter