My war with porcupines began on a moonlit, summer night about  40 years ago. There was a full moon, lighting up our mountain, vacation home and the surrounding meadow. We heard it before we saw it, waking my wife and me from our sleep near midnight.


         The visible evidence was there when we first discovered the scrapings weeks before. “Something” was gnawing on the wood sidings of our house. What that something was we city people (my wife and I) had no idea. Even though I had grown up in the small country town of Freehold I had never encountered anything like this.


         The steady scraping sounds (It’s the only way I can describe those sounds.) drew us to the open window. There, below us, on the front landing, lit by the full moon, was the source of those scraping sounds. A porcupine, the first we had ever seen (but not the last), was busy gnawing on the wood siding.


         There was no question in my minds as to what I had to do. Protect our home and save it from depredation by this creature from out of—out of—where ever it was out of!


         Our bedroom was on the second level of the house. Our utility room was on the first level and it was there I kept the gardening tools, one of  which would furnish me with a weapon to dispatch the porcupine. I must confess that up to that point the only creatures I had ever dispatched were mice. This would be my introduction to “big game”. I chose my weapon carefully. It was a three pronged, long-handled cultivator.





         With my wife watching, anxiously from our bedroom window (She  believed, erroneously, that porcupines could shoot their quills and would impale me with them.)



         I slipped around to the front of the house with my weapon in hand. There was a brief moment when our eyes met before I landed a killing blow to its quill armored back. It was like hitting a cement block. The wooden handle of my cultivator broke in half, leaving me with a short, pointed sword. The porcupine appeared unfazed. It turned and lumbered across the meadow (porcupines don’t run very fast) with me in hot pursuit brandishing my newly acquired sword.


         From my wife’s point of view, aside from her anxiety, the whole scene took on a surreal quality with me, waving my wooden sword, (my bathrobe flying open) chasing a porcupine across a meadow lit by a full moon.


         I think there is a saying about “when the worm turns”. In my case it was when the porcupine turns, which it did. It turned and headed straight for me. My sword became a club, a rather feeble club, which I used to swat the porcupine again and again as it turned and ran from me. Then, it stopped in the middle of the meadow. What was that all about?  I poked it with my sword and it didn’t move. Next, using my wooden sword, I turned it over on its back. There, revealed to me, was that proverbial soft underbelly. This was my chance to finish it off! I raised my sharp-pointed sword and—and I couldn’t do it. I heard myself saying, “ If it’s playing possum— (Do porcupines’ play possum?) and it’s still alive, it deserves to get away. And so I left it until the following morning. It wasn’t playing possum.


         So, my war with porcupines was just beginning.


         We spent mostly weekends at our country place. Each time we arrived there would be fresh evidence of porcupine activity at the expense  of our house. My frustration grew with the passing months and years. Until, one night there came that familiar gnawing sound. I saw it out of our bedroom window dining on the side of our house. Just for the record, I am not against owning guns in rural and other appropriate locations. My sons have a number of rifles at our country place. I don’t own or use guns as a matter of personal choice. This, of course, limited my means of eliminating porcupines.


         It was back to my utility room where I now kept an axe. That took care of porcupine number two.


         The third one I can only claim partial credit for. At this point in time my sons were too young to own rifles. To my surprise, it was daylight when I saw the porcupine a short distance from my house. I grabbed a stick that was handy and chased the porcupine up a tree (They are excellent climbers).

My neighbor, a gunsmith, shot it out of the tree.


         Then, there was the 70 mile per hour (mph) porcupine. Impossible you say? read on. My two, teen-aged sons, Jon and Josh, had taken our Newfoundland dog, Maggie for an easy climb (walk) up the mountain that was partially on our property. A short time later I heard Josh shouting “Maggie...porcupine!”






         I saw him leading Maggie down and I knew what had happened. I took pliers and waited for Maggie who now had a beard of quills imbedded in her muzzle. After we slowly and (for Maggie) painfully removed the quills, the boys took a rifle and went back up the mountain in search of  that porcupine. They found it and shot it. The problem was, this was no ordinary porcupine. It had a transmitter secured around its neck. What had they done!


         They manage to free the transmitter and brought it to me very much afraid they might have broken the law covering transmitters around the necks of porcupines. I assured them they hadn’t. There was a name on the collar of the transmitter. We decided to bring the transmitter back to the city and attempt to locate the person or organization whose name was on the collar and explain what had happened.


         I usually drove on the New York State Thruway at about 70 mph. We couldn’t help imagine that whomever was tracking that porcupine’s transmitter must have been astonished at having discovered the world’s speediest porcupine. We never did locate the source of that transmitter.


         It’s difficult to keep track of the when and how as well as the exact number of porcupines that continued to chew away at our house. It never stopped. I killed one with a log from our fireplace. And there was one that got away. Another, one of my sons shot but they kept coming until—


     We replaced the wood siding on our house with stone. 

That meant — my war with porcupines is over.


Bob Flicker



 © robert 2014