My last blog post was about an awful smell in the woods and how its source was a mystery. I think the mystery is solved. I did a thorough search in the smelly area with my neighbor who is a hunter and has smelled bear. We didn’t find any sign of bear and he said the odor didn’t smell like bear to him. He had no idea what it was.
Finally, I got through to the game warden today after several days of phone tag. His best guess was porcupine. He said walking in the woods he has come across a nasty stink and thought, yuck, what is that. Then he saw it was a porcupine.
Apparently, not only do these rodents have long quills for defense, they also can emit a strong, foul odor when disturbed. It may serve as a warning to a predator to leave them alone. So the creatures have the capacity to be really odiferous.
The warden said it is most likely a family has taken up residence in the dead pine tree. They are all stinking away and are up in the air so the smell can travel farther. This makes sense to me.
There is certainly plenty of porcupine sign in the area: tree bark gnawings, diggings around tree bases and piles of stool under some hemlocks. They seem to favor hemlock bark for food. So, although I have not climbed up in the giant dead pine to see for sure, it sounds fairly likely that the stinky creature in the woods is a bunch of porcupines.
It seems odd to me that I’ve never smelled this before. I’ve seen several porcupines in trees and walking in the woods. The critters used to come in my barn and gnaw on the wall boards. A really big one raided my corn patch for several weeks one year. I’ve even been very close to them at the vet clinic where I worked because we provided services for a wildlife rescue facility. I guess none of these porkies were scared enough to let off their stink.
Now that we know what we are probably dealing with, we’ll be careful to keep the dogs near when we walk in that part of the woods. There’s not much that is less fun than pulling quills out of a dog’s face.