March 14, 2011

Speaking from Experience

By Margaret Gillespie, Naturalist

At my home in Canterbury everything was fitting into place like clockwork. It needed to because I was due at the Science Center early to prepare our porcupine, skunk, and bats for a trip to Hanover’s Howe Library. An eager audience would be anticipating the “Animals with Bad Reputations” program. I rushed out of my house at dawn for a walk up the snowmobile trail with my one-year old miniature poodle, Mica. Although all 19 pounds are poodle, I sometimes joke that she is part chicken! I’ve worked hard at building up her confidence in new situations.

As we went over an old stone bridge, I remembered the porcupine that we had tracked to its winter home in a rock crevice of the bridge foundation. We had also seen evidence of the porcupine’s journeys pushing through the snow to feast on hemlock branches. At the sound of ice clattering on crusty snow, Mica and I looked up to see that same porcupine making a headlong dash for its shelter. Although nocturnal, this porcupine was obviously not yet at rest! Mica didn’t pause for thought – she streaked across the snow oblivious to my calls, pursuing the running porcupine with six inches to spare. Fortunately porcupines do not throw their quills; they are a kind of fur. However this porcupine had all quills raised and it was flipping its tail up towards Mica’s face as both animals arrived on the snowmobile trail about 10 yards from me. Seeing me, Mica’s courage soared with the possibility of a backup in this chase. Instead, I flew up the trail in the opposite direction! Mica looked confused and then ran full speed after me. Our porcupine friend scrambled down the bank and into the safety of its rock crevice. I was glad that the chicken in Mica came to her rescue! What a relief to have a good story for the Howe Library program instead of a trip to the veterinary clinic.

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