Every now and then, Game and Parks Commission offices across the state receive calls for assistance from landowners and others to respond to a mini-crisis involving wildlife. This week it was a call from a ranch lady southwest of Hemingford in the central Panhandle. Her dog and a young porcupine (sharpstickiest Americanis farrar) had a head-on mixup that saw the two going around and around the house before the young porky fell into a basement window well. After delivering her dog to a vet for care, the landowner called the Alliance district office to ask that the porcupine be removed from the window well and relocated without being harmed. Dist. 1 wildlife biologists were able to respond and moved the porcupine to suitable habitat nearby on the Box Butte Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
Porcupines have a bad reputation for their destructive feeding activities, girdling trees and cleaning the uppermost branches of young cottonwood trees, for example, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the species after a large porcupine played a significant role during an elk hunt many years ago. The aspens had dropped their leaves at the altitude I was trying to stalk a moving herd of cows with several bulls trailing along. It was about the second week of October and the bull’s bugling helped me maintain contact with the herd. Moving into a small creek bottom within the Mount Massive Wilderness Area near Leadville, Colorado, I noticed movement not more than 100-yards through aspen forest. The russet-reddish parts of several elk were visible through the aspens –the sound of my approach may have alerted the lead cows to my presence.The crisp fallen aspen leafs made it impossible take a step without the sound echoing through the creek bottom. Off to one side, a large porcupine closer to the elk decided to break the standoff and began moving towards the elk. I like to believe the elk saw the porcupine and resumed their slow movement up the mountain. A nice young bull in the herd stepped into an opening and I was able to harvest my first elk. I’ve observed a mutual truce with the porcupine species ever since.