When I first posted this picture on social media, I got a variety of comments about it. Some people ‘got’ it and realized how unique the photo was and how it was pretty cool that I was that close to a porcupine. Other people made comments like:
“What happened after the picture?” (with the assumption that I shot it after the encounter).
Basically it all boils down to time and place; if this porcupine was within a half mile of my farm and the dogs, I would have most likely taken alternative actions. Pests are pests, but porcupines don’t go looking for trouble. They’re just trying to find their next meal, which this guy proved when he cowered at our approach. I think it would be awfully boring if we didn’t see porcupines in the trees, or magpies calling their crew together over a newly discovered carcass in the bush, or even muskrats swimming through a small water pot in a pasture. If it’s not directly harming me or my animals, it can stay (with the exception of skunks and raccoons. My hatred for them has been a lifelong struggle as a chicken, pheasant and waterfowl owner). I’m not saying I’ve never disposed of a porcupine because I’d be lying! I’m also not a fan of them around the farm yard, especially when my overly curious horse got too close to one. Let me tell you, pulling 57 quills out of the muzzle of a 1200 pound horse who is trying to stomp you with his front feet while ripping out strands of barbed wire fencing in the meantime, is not my idea of a good time. However, this particular porcupine was within a mile of the south Saskatchewan River, and no where near any farm yards.
This great photo op came about when my brother and I were out moose hunting one afternoon and on our way back to the truck, we came across this young porcupine in a stubble field who was just cleaning up some grain that was thrown over by the combine. He wasn’t hurting anyone or anything. He was just minding his business enjoying his supper.
My favorite comment: “You’re lucky you didn’t get stuck with a quill” (I was at least 2 feet behind this guy). There is a common misconception that porcupines can “throw” their quills… they can’t! The only way that a quill can be extracted from the body of a porcupine is from direct pressure on the quill causing the barbed end to pierce the muzzle/paw/etc of the animal and therefore being released from the back of the porcupine. So at no time was I in any danger whatsoever. He actually took several minutes to stand up in this pose and that was just to slowly check if I was still behind him. Until that time he was huddled into the ground hiding from us, showing zero aggression and just wanted to be left alone, We took the picture and walked away leaving him to his meal.
Trying to explain my love for hunting and the outdoors while having the mixture of my love of wildlife and nature tossed into the mix isn’t always easy, not to mention my own personal mission to rescue and rehome as many unwanted cats, dogs, and any other domestic animal that needs a home as I can every year. I also volunteer for the provincial wildlife hotline in order to help wild animals who are injured, sick or otherwise in trouble. This is where the difference between a hunter and a killer comes in to play. I either get drawn for, or purchase big game tags & waterfowl licenses every year. These tags allow me to harvest animals within certain dates. I don’t shoot more animals than I’m allowed nor do I shoot them out of season. Seasons exist for breeding as well as the raising of young birds and animals, and going outside the season dates affects the success of next year’s populations. I will admit that there is a very fine line separating all of my passions and until recently I never thought about it being a conflict until people who don’t “get” it brought it to my attention. I will rescue a duck with an injured wing in May and then go duck hunting in October. I’ve raised and released abandoned fox kittens while at the same time looking forward to coyote hunting the next winter.
I could go on all day about my reasons for posing with a porcupine but the fact of the matter is that it was one hell of an opportunity for a cool picture and it’s pretty amazing that something that may or may not have ever been that close to a person before was totally fine with me being there. I didn’t pose with it to cause a conflict or a barrage of angry comments regarding the hatred for the animal. Some people don’t like snakes and you sure won’t find me in the pet store picking out a rose-hair tarantula to bring home but I will take any opportunity given to me to do something unique and different that I will remember for years to come especially when it involves a wild animal!