By Mary Davis
As summer launched slow and steady after the snows in May, the usual wildlife commenced devouring Spring’s fresh buffet I had graciously planted for them. But this story is not about the deer that nibbled away my white phlox, the young hydrangea leaves, tender buds of the rhododendrons, and the faded blossoms of the Baptisia. It’s not a story about the groundhogs and rabbits that ate all my baby lettuce, spinach, parsley, green bean flowers, and entire zucchini plants. Those are normal wildlife. Porcupines are wildlings capable of Biblical destruction.
Granted, they were at my cabin first. Before I set eyes on the place they had already chewed up the cedar corner trims. The woodshed was completely wrapped in chicken wire, a meager attempt to secure the interior from gaping holes all along the bottom half. Honestly, it was difficult to ascertain exactly what kept it standing. During renovation, porcupines consumed the contractor’s tool handles the first weekend.
Realizing that porcupines were going to be part of living in the country, we adapted, or tried to. We installed exotic foreign woods on the house and deck and galvanized metal on the new shed. We opted for metal clad windows instead of wood. I bought, mostly, wrought iron outdoor furniture. I left them the coir door mat and the snow shovel to finish off. I gave them a peace offering of two salt licks. We stopped sleeping on the deck after the night my daughter, her ever-ready cell phone in hand, illuminated a porcupine that stealthily finessed its way right beside her head.
I thought we reached an agreement, but not so. They found the wood rocking chairs and cleverly chewed their way up the ladder backs to reach the sill of the new metal window. I pulled the chairs away from the house. They gnawed the metal doors. I dispersed pieces of Zest soap around the cabin to ward them off. They ate the soap. I finally had to break the truce and set a Hav-a-Heart trap. I captured a large spiny creature and was consequently left with the quandary about what to do with the beast. Not only was there a disgusting mess to clean up, the trap with the huge animal was too much for me to pick up, much less put into my small car. Luckily, a friend’s boyfriend came to my rescue.
Then there was spring cleaning. We scrubbed the deck with OxiClean; same for the furniture. We left for the day and returned the next morning to Biblical destruction, a real “Oh. My. God.” moment. To enumerate the porcupine damage—two rocking chairs, one six-foot-long Lutyens bench, every single slat of the dining table, the deck floor and fascia boards, the structural post underneath. Revenge of the porcupines! This situation was way beyond my control. I needed some real help, and after a google search found it—a Nationally Certified Wildlife Control Professional!
Josh arrived right away, several traps in hand. He installed a fine metal mesh under my deck and several Hav-a-Heart traps with generously salted marshmallows as bait. After about a week he caught one. After another several days passed without capturing another one Josh left me with a bottomless trap with which to catch one red-handed. Scat evidence convinced me another one was out there. Since Oxi-Clean started it all, I decided to sprinkle some out as bait; it worked! About midnight I heard the undeniable sound of porcupine scratching. Armed with my heavy-duty flashlight/weapon, I tiptoed out in my jammies. The bottomless trap was too far away from the door and my extra steps gave him time to make it to the edge of the deck. I went after him, tossing the trap in his general direction, on top of the lilies, into the tall herbstonne rudebekia, into the stone path. But alas, he got away. It was an eventful night. Oxi-Clean proved too compelling, and a few minutes later the beast returned! This time the trap was conveniently located right beside the door. Trap in one hand, flashlight in the other, I chased the animal. Just as it was nearing the edge of the deck I dropped the trap right on top of him!
Then came the “what do I do now?” moment. The animal was impaling its thorny-self into the sides, ever so quickly moving the trap closer to the edge, to his escape. Josh smartly left me a piece of sheet metal to slide underneath, to help protect the deck. I bravely slid it under the furious animal and managed to pull the whole contraption away from the edge. I then seized a wrought iron chair and placed it upside down on top of the trap. For good measure I put a couple of big logs on top of that. I emailed Josh right away informing him of my success and later that morning he returned to take my capture far, far away.
After a week or so scouring the area for signs of another porcupine, I was satisfied it was safe to commence sanding and refinishing all the furniture. Then came the feral kittens….
to be continued.~