Thursday, July 9, 2009

A prickly situation

by Birch

She saw the little one first. Blossom was riding on my back as though I were her own personal Lipizzaner pony as we took an early-evening turn over the grass. She pointed up into the black locust tree towering over the chicken coop. "Is that a monkey?" she asked.

I looked up at the creature on a spindly branch twenty-feet off the ground. It was stripping whole branches and stuffing the leaves into its mouth. It had agile little hands, an expressive face and a curly-ish tail—it did look like a monkey.

Fern came trotting out to see what we had found. She looked up toward the top of the tree and pointed. Another one! "We have monkeys! We have monkeys!" The mama, um, monkey was forty feet up, paws like hands reaching for leaves—an eating machine. This thing was huge—should we call Jane Goodall?

But wait. These things were covered in quills not fur and had a tiny snout with close, round eyes. Fern and Blossom insisted (very hopefully) that monkeys were roosting. June brought out the camera and examined them through the telephoto lens. Fern and Blossom clambered up to the roof of the chicken coop for a better view with binoculars. The creatures kept eating and eating.

Mosquitoes (hatched out since the heavy rain) finally chased us inside where we consulted books and Google for more information about what looked to us to be odd tree-climbing porcupines. Sure enough: Who knew there was such a thing as a tree porcupine?

Kid's World reports that "The tree porcupine is one of the largest rodents in North America." They love salt and will eat the tires off a car to get at the road salt. Their destructive powers to take down trees and wood structures is unmatched in the animal kingdom. When June discovered they love to eat gardens, their resemblance to monkeys disappeared and they looked like nothing so much as menacing rats with quills. When Fern and Blossom found out that tree porcupines are a favorite snack of the fearsome fisher cat, all they could think was (something like this, it was hard to tell through the panic): The fisher cat will smell the tree porcupines, who will have eaten the wooden door off the chicken coop, exposing the chickens to the fisher cat. And after eating the porcupines and the chickens, the fisher cat will eat Meow Meow, their beloved kitty, for dessert.

We needed to act fast. I left a message with a local animal-control expert. If we trapped the things we needed to release them far, far away. (But wouldn't they just be someone else's problem, then?) As the full moon rose, silhouetting Thing One and Thing Two in the tree, they were still eating.

Morning came. There was no sign of the porcupines. The animal expert returned our call and said he'd be happy to trap them. But porcupines often just pass through, he happened to mention. Sometimes they're headed for the next salt lick down the road.

No sign of them since, but don't think Fern and Blossom (and June) aren't keeping an eye on those high limbs.


The Hip Homemaker said...

How crazy is that?!? I totally would have thought it was a monkey too. The piece about the girls' thought process was perfect!

Beegirl said...

Porcupine?? YOWSA! I don't I've ever seen one .. Hope they were just passing by. Great shots of them though!! Thanks for the kind comment on the blues. It was heavenly picking this morning enjoying some quiet time with my dad. I loved your story... and I'll save you a piece of pie.. come on over..!!

June said...

The gruesome news is that tonight they CAME BACK! The girls and I are in a total state of crazy. So if you've got a largest-rodent-in-North-America- mother-and-child-edition Have-a-Heart trap, PLEASE have a heart and loan it to your friends...huh?

Laura A said...

Hi June! Just wanted to say that I'm enjoying your blog. I take it you're a former New Yorker, or your husband is? I like the way you live our vacation life year-round ;-).

ozark summers said...

umm.. well... if they like salt so much then i would think a shot gun with shells full of rock salt would do the trick .. wouldnt kill them but it would sure make it sting and send their little tree eating selves packing..

Dirt Princess said...

That is so weird! I have NEVER heard of them!!!!!

gardenmama said...

Wow! We also had a cat named meow meow with a brother cat named motorhead : ) And you also referenced Dr. Suess! How fabulous : )
A tree porcupine eh? so strange they sound a tad frightening! lol I am glad it moved along to saltier pastures!

Unknown said...

AHHHH!!!!! how did the girls get on the roof of the chicken coop? hmm.....careful!!! those animals look scary!!! how FREAKY!!!! hope you get the outta there!!

vuejardin said...

What a cute visitor in your garden. Thanks for your wonderful post, I'm enjoying your blog, just add it to my favorite blog list.

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