The Common Myth About One of New York’s Most Unique Animals
The plants and animals in New York are so fascinating that many of the facts about them seem like they're fake. A peregrine falcon topping 200 miles per hour, a moose being seven feet tall, and carnivorous vegetation growing in our wetlands all sound like fantasy, but they're all true. One myth about one of the most unique Hudson Valley residents, however, has persevered.
Maybe it's due to their portrayal in movies, or because of the very impressive damage they can do in real life, but the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) wants to set the record straight.
New York's Porcupine Myth
The common fallacy is centered around an animal that has the strangest ratio of cute-to-scary of any rodent in New York State: the porcupine. This spiky herbivore has almost no known enemies, and it's all due to their special defense mechanism of a body covered in pointy quills. But do you know how they really work?
How Porcupines Use Their Quills
"Did you know that porcupines can shoot their quills when threatened? No? Good, because that's a MYTH", the NYS DEC recently shared on their Facebook page. While the stereotypical sight of a curious dog with a face full of quills could lead to the assumption that they must have been propelled, the NYS DEC explained the real way the porcupine's defense works:
[While] the quills do easily detach when touched by a predator, they do not shoot them from their body. A porcupine's quills typically lie flat until the animal feels threatened, then they rise to attention as a deterrent.
That means if you see another animal full of quills, they must have been curious enough to try to get a bite, or at least a good intimate sniff, from a quill queen (or king). There is one tactic the porcupine uses, however, that might be just as good as "shooting".
Porcupine Defense Techniques
One nature enthusiast described a recent encounter her dog had with a porcupine. While there was no "shooting", she reported that the rodent "[began] to back into [my dog], thrashing its tail back and forth. Lunging at the porcupine, my dog comes up with a face full of quills". The porcupine is so good at warding off potential predators, in fact, that there is only one animal in the entire state who has learned how to hunt them.
The Only Animal in New York Hunting Porcupines
One of New York's most elusive creatures, the fisher, is the only known predator of the porcupine. Part of the weasel family, fishers are small and have the advantage of being eye-level with the porcupine, giving them clearer access to the porcupine's unprotected face. Though the attack can take patience, a persistent fisher can eventually mortally wound its prey.
While there have been porcupine sightings in the Hudson Valley, their denser populations are generally further north in the Adirondacks. Luckily, no porcupines anywhere in the state have decided to do what their western counterparts have perfected: eating cars (no, really). Check out some more fascinating New York wildlife below.
Frolicking Beaver Family Swims in the Hudson Valley
Gallery Credit: Jonah