Monday, August 25, 2008
Back in June this little one was found tangled up in a towel in some one's front yard. No one knew where she came from and no one ever saw her mom walking the neighborhood looking for her. The people that found her called their vet who in turned called the sanctuary. The tiny baby porcupine soon found herself as a unique addition to all of the raccoons, squirrels, and opossum babies that were being cared for.
Porcupines are found in this part of Texas (south central) and chances are, you won't usually see one. They are incredibly secretive and don't bother anyone (unless of course your dog decides to try and chase one out of the yard and they end up in the only corner in the yard!). Their diet is similar to that of other nocturnal animals--bugs, grubs, ripe native fruits, leaves, and the inner bark of trees. The may forage on the ground at night, but during the day, they sleep and nap up in the trees. They are superb climbers with long black claws on all 4 feet. The soles of their hands and feet are soft and I've often likened adult porcupine feet to baby's because of the similar shape.
Her body was a little larger than my hand and her tail wasn't much longer than that. Her fur was black and soft with just a few prickles to remind you of her species. She made a small, quiet 'huh' sound and you could tell missed her mother terribly. She was fed a specialized formula and given small bite sized pieces of fruits and veggies to nibble. She seemed so small. She loved hiding in a small crate with a pillowcase and hay for comfort and medium sized tree branches near so she would be familiar with her native elements.
She stayed in the clinic until she was a little bigger and a little older. In July, she got her own place outside. There, she was able to experience the sun, wind, outdoor sounds, and night time in safety. I can only imagine what her thoughts were. I took photos one afternoon and she roamed the area of her hutch. She immediately began eating dirt and gnawing a rock. Since they live so close to the ground and eat mainly the inner bark of trees, minerals play an important role in their diets. Shortly after, she found the tree that shaded her home. She took her time smelling around the base and then climbed between the trunk and branch and took a short nap.
By this time she was getting more spines and while they were smaller and darker than her adult ones would be, they were still hurtful! She began to 'startle'-meaning that if she was startled, her fur would stand on end and the famous lower back quills (however small!) would stand out. Her tail fur and quills would also swell and stand up. It was amazing that even though she was in an unusual situation (being taken care of by humans with however little contact) she was instinctively defensive.
By the beginning of August, she was in an even more remote location and in a bigger space. She was in an old pigeon coop that offered her lots more room to climb and explore. Large logs were placed at angles so that she could practice her climbing and the roost boxes offered her hiding places.
Her 'big girl' quills were coming in nicely and they reminded me of the ones I had stashed away at home from when the dogs cornered a huge porcupine in the back yard and had to go to the vet to have them removed. Long and white tipped with black. Her black 'baby' fur was quickly being replaced with course white hairs that blended the black under-fur with her quills. I have often wondered how mama porcupines care for the little ones--even her ears are protected by tiny back quills.
Exactly what does a mother porcupine's love look and feel like?