Porcupine encounters become a prickly situation

I’ve been seeing an amazing number of porcupines during the spring gobbler season: dead on the road, alive on the road, and in the woods as I troll for a longbeard. A couple even just down the road, close enough that it’s possible they could eventually wander into the yard.

That’s a concern. Just ahead of the spring gobbler season our youngest Lab, Finn, tangled with a porcupine while we hiked on state land, scouting for turkeys while at the same time getting our two Labs some exercise. Finn ultimately came away with 75 or so quills from the young porky – about five bucks per quill by the time we made a hasty trip to the vet before closing time. I can remove the easy quills, but I can never get them all so we let the professionals deal with them.

We’ve been there several times before. All of our Labs over the years have encountered a porcupine at one time or another; some have been repeat offenders. We hate seeing our dogs with a face full of quills, and not just because of the costly vet bills.

I’ve resorted to a porcupine eradication program of my own, especially if I see one within range of the house. I’m never happy about shooting one, but I’m even more upset if one of our dogs encounters one, so I’m forced to make some kind of pre-emptive strike.

Since we straddle the Pennsylvania-New York border here, we’re always running dogs in either state. And there are some surprising differences when it comes to porcupine hunting regulations.

In New York state, porkys are listed as an “unprotected species” and may be hunted at any time, with no limit. A hunting license, however, is required to hunt them with a bow, crossbow or firearm.

Neighboring Pennsylvania, however, established a specific porcupine hunting season several years ago – Sept. 1-March 31, with a limit of three per day and a season limit of 10. I don’t recall ever seeing three in one day, and I doubt I’ll ever bump up against the season bag limit, no matter how much running around we do on state land or some friends’ farmland.

This is a time of year when we typically swim our dogs instead of running them in woodlots and fields. For starters, it’s warm, sometimes hot, and a swim is more enjoyable for Finn and 13-year-old Hailey, who has never liked hot weather. There’s also too much out there for our dogs to encounter in addition to porcupines – fawns, turkey poults, grouse chicks, etc. So we give them a break during the summer.

But I’m not going to give a porcupine a break if I see one. For our dogs’ sake, I’m keeping their numbers in check.

Categories: Hunting News, New York – Steve Piatt

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