Expecting at Lathrop, Part 3

by Barbara Walvoord

After the last two weeks’ columns about coyotes and bobcats that eat poor little rabbits, perhaps it’s time to look at some pregnant vegetarians on our land.

Our porcupine–perhaps the one that Eleanor Johnson and her family saw in Addison’s Oak last summer–is a vegetarian. Mom has mated long ago–in late summer or early fall, when the male fought with other porcupines for her favors and performed an elaborate courtship dance (yes, dance), including spraying urine on her head. Eeeeeew.

Unlike our rabbits who gestate in a few weeks and our coyotes and bobcats who take a month or two, it takes seven months to make a porcupine baby. Our mom is giving birth about now to just one infant. (Ladies–in case you wondered, the quills are soft as the baby is being born; they harden shortly after birth.)

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Our baby porcupine can forage for its own food within a few days after birth, though it will stay with its mother for about 6 months.

Well you thought this was going to be a column about an innocent little vegetarian, well protected against predators, no hunting, no blood, no guts. But in fact, mama porcupine does have to try to protect herself and her babies. Especially expert at attacking porcupines are fishers, which are members of the weasel family. They are elusive, but undoubtedly live here. Has anyone seen one on Lathrop land? Fishers attack porcupines with swift, darting bites to the head. When the porcupine is dead, they flip it over and start eating at the belly.  Eeeeeew.

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