By Becky Fitzpatrick
ASC Landmark Crew Member

I turned onto a snow-covered two track following tracks of deer, coyote and grouse. At the base of an 
irrigation berm, something slipped surreptitiously inside a metal culvert. Moving closer, I saw a pile of 
dark pellets at the entrance, and then, the black-tipped quills of a porcupine. 

Atop the berm, the animal’s well-used run enticed me to follow. The snow had only been on the ground 
for three days, but the layers of tracks and thickness of the trail made it appear as if it had been there 
for weeks. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times the porcupine went back and forth each day. 

Stepping forward, my eye caught by a golden brown glint in the dry grasses. Was that another 
porcupine? I hurried toward it, and then slowed to a calm stalk as I neared.

Porcupine Tracks

Porcupine tracks in the snow by Becky Fitzpatrick

The wind was blowing in my direction and the animal did not catch my scent, hear or see me. I kneeled 
to watch, peeling off my gloves to place between my knees and the snow. The porcupine was eating dry 
seed heads, using its bulbous foot pads to bring them to its mouth and its sharp teeth to neatly nip off 
the heads. Close enough to hear teeth at work, I watched it crouched on its haunches, nibbling away. 

Another sound cut through the silence—like a woodpecker knocking, but more consistent. Peering 
through trees to locate the sound, I saw a shape in the top of a cottonwood. Another porcupine? I rose 
slowly, sneaking away to investigate. Down a draw and into a willow patch, I followed porcupine tracks 
moving in both directions. Five feet before me, yet another porcupine sat. Startled, it dropped the 
branch it was chewing and walked deeper into the willows, quills scratching as they rubbed against the 
trees. I picked up the branch to examine the chew marks. The outlines of its incisors were visible in the 


Porcupine at APR. (Photo by Eli Allan)

High in the cottonwood, the last porcupine continued its chewing, which was clearly audible now. Bits of 
bark drifted down to the snow. It stopped to grasp the tree between its fat feet and curled in a 
surprisingly flexible position. Readjusting, it licked the tree and began chewing again in a slow rhythm. 
I watched and listened until the shadows shifted, then turned and left the four porcupines and walked 
toward the sinking sun.

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