Dogs and porcupines don’t mix

At one time I held a certain fascination with porcupines, always enjoying an occasional encounter with the quilled critters, able to get up close (but not too close) and personal, or watch them from a short distance as they went about their bark-chewing ways.

Then I got a Labrador retriever, and my attitude toward porcupines did a 180.

Over the years most, but not all of our Labs have had encounters with porcupines; some, like Ben, have been repeat offenders. We’ve spent some serious dollars, had pheasant hunts or hikes interrupted, and watched our dogs deal with the unpleasant results of tangling with a porcupine.

It will probably happen again. Finn last summer met up with one during an outing on state land in Pennsylvania, her first and hopefully last grappling match with a critter which, in my mind, just brings nothing but trouble to an owner of a hunting dog.

That’s why my “eat what you kill” philosophy goes out the window when we encounter a porcupine. I’m not particularly proud of that, but in the interest of protecting our Labs – and likely other hunting dogs – we exterminate any porcupines we encounter if we have the opportunity. Sometimes the quilled encounters occur when we’re just out running the dogs, sans shotguns.

But if the opportunity arises, we get rid of any porcupines we see. It’s just a product of seeing too many of our Labs suffering through a painful scrap, followed by an almost equally painful vet bill. On a couple of occasions the incidents have been minor and I’ve been able to pull a couple quills off the nose of one of our dogs. But usually it’s more serious than that, and to make sure all the quills are removed we head to the vet for their professional skills.

In New York state, porcupines are deemed an unprotected species, along with red squirrels, woodchucks, English sparrows, starlings, rock pigeons, and monk parakeets, whatever they are. That means they may been taken at any time without a limit, although a hunting license is required.

Neighboring Pennsylvania not long ago established a porcupine hunting season, from mid-October through Feb. 1, with a limit of three daily and a season limit of 10. We don’t have enough encounters to push those limits, but I’m not thrilled about the prospect of letting one walk when we encounter it outside the hunting season.

Chances are Finn and whatever Labs we may have in the future will encounter a porcupine and wind up with a face full of quills. It will be painful for the dog and costly for us, but the porcupine will be removed from the landscape if it’s legally possible.

Categories: New York – Steve Piatt

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