The Great Porcupine Fiasco of 2013

porcupine1 copyThey’re back.  After the much-publicized porcupine fiasco of 2013, 2014 and 2015 proved to be quiet years on the rodent front.  The 'one that got away', we had assumed, had learned his lesson and was on the lam.  After the confrontation and very expensive lesson inflicted on my dogs, we had assumed that he had gone on to easier pickings.  With age comes wisdom or maybe courage and the allure of the vegetable garden once again beckoned.

For those who aren’t familiar with the ‘Great Porcupine Incident of 2013’ let me recap.  We have lived for over a decade in a quiet suburban area.  Our neighbourhood is surrounded by a wooded area and borders the Bow River valley.  A lovely area to live. Every now and again a moose or bear will get itself lost and find itself in someone’s backyard, but otherwise, we remain off the wildlife track except by the occasional coyote and deer and the gazillion squirrels and chipmunks that call my backyard home. Following the floods of 2013, things changed.  The river valley was flooded and the wildlife found themselves without a home and ventured forth into parts unknown.  Most fortunately for the porcupines who found themselves in this same predicament, the new found homes come with some added bounty, namely my vegetable garden.  And so began the ‘Great Porcupine Incident of 2013’. 

The first clue that we had visitors was the evidenced by my vegetable garden.  Not the kale, or the beets or the beans.  Just the lettuces.  I called the City.  Nothing they could do.  I called a wildlife agency.  Not their remit in the city.  Hmmm.  I called a commercial trapper who specializes in trapping porcupines.  They promptly came out and set their traps assuring me that it would only take a day or two.  Armed them with tasty apple and other porcupine ‘crack’.  And we waited.  Well, the porcupine returned. They used the conveniently placed traps to more easily navigate around the booby traps I had placed to make access to my vegetable garden more difficult.  The ‘porcupine crack’ ignored in favour of the lettuce.  I called the trapping company and the owner, a wizened old guy, who had been trapping for years came out to attend to my problem.  He walked into the back garden, stood silently for about 5 minutes, scratched his head and told me that he would be giving my money back.  It was porcupine nirvana back there he said and there wasn’t any way they would be able to trap them.  Great!


Not to be outdone by a couple of rodents, we set about booby trapping the backyard.  There was no way a porcupine would enter out back garden without us knowing.  And so began the nights of sleeping with one eye open listening for any little sound that would betray their presence.  With our trusty, soon to be patented (just kidding), porcupine trapping device we lay in wait.  The lure of the vegetable garden proved too much, so when the porcupine made their triumphant return we were ready.  Armed with a very bright flashlight to stun them, and a large Rubbermaid container with a lid, we were ready.  The tell-tale sound of them scaling the fence came and we launched out of bed wide awake to do battle.  Now let me tell you, those little guys are like supermen.  They can scale tall buildings -  well not really.  But they can move mighty fast when they need to they can climb fences and trees lickedy-split’. 


porcupine2 copyPorcupine number one fell into our trap easily.  The flashlight in the eyes stunned him.  The Rubbermaid over the body and the lid slipped underneath.  Bam!  Got ‘em!  Air holes for breathing and duct tape to stop the lid popping off.  Done.  Midnight road trip to the north of Cochrane.  Check.  Porcupine number one now residing in a nice wooded area north of the city.  Our problem was not over.  We knew there were two of these guys, so we laid in wait and a week later repeated.  Porcupine number two, now also residing in a lovely wooded area north of the city with his buddy.  After such a terrific result we were jubilant with our success.  We remained vigilant for weeks, checking the yard before letting the dogs out and after some time had passed let our attention slip until that fateful morning when we learned that there were, in fact, three porcupines.

In my back garden, I have a raised garden bed.  It gives us privacy and provides a secluded spot for the dogs to do their business.  On that fateful morning, the dogs did what they always do.  One went one side of the garden bed and the other dog went around the other side.  This time though, a porcupine stood in the middle.  With nowhere to go, it went on the defensive.  Pippa was quilled in the face and Gracie got them all underneath her body.  The dogs came running back in pain.  The porcupine made its getaway.  Pippa’s quills were easy to deal with but Gracie’s were another matter.  Off to the emergency vet we went.  She required surgery to remove the quills.  A 10-inch incision down her stomach was made in the search for the quills before they migrated.  Even months later, we would be petting her and feel a sharp, prickly thing and out would pop another quill.  Who knows how many are still inside her.

So back to last night.  At exactly 3:03am, history repeated itself.  The dogs woke.  They were pacing and whining.  The familiar rattle of someone (or something) climbing the fence.  A flashback of the summer of 2013.  Our first thought was not of a porcupine, but of a break in.  There have been a few robberies in the neighbourhood this year, so that was our thought.  We flew into action.  Hubby scanned the back garden.  Nothing!  Hmmm!  And then I noticed the vegetable garden just as my husband yelled ‘porcupine’.  The dastardly intruder had returned.  Here we go again.  Since our ‘patented porcupine catcher’ had been retired I raced into the basement to find another container that could be repurposed to a ‘porcupine catcher’.  Hubby held the porcupine in a trance with the flashlight.  Like a well-oiled machine, we clicked into action quickly securing the rodent ready for transportation to his new home north of the city.

Time will tell whether there are more of these prickly midnight thieves.  It will mean that the lettuce is not ours this year, although, by the state of my raspberry bush they may have diversified their tastes.  What it will mean is checking the garden before letting the dogs out.  Dogs are dogs and just because they have ben quilled once does not mean they have learned a lesson.  They will get quilled again.  I expect there is a second porcupine, and from past experience possibly a third out there.  We will remain vigilant.  Whether it is the one that got away.  Who knows.  If he was on the lam and decided to try his luck again or a new crew working the neighbourhood time will tell.  Let’s hope it is not a case of history repeating itself.  I am not sure I am ready for the ‘Great Porcupine Fiasco of 2016’.