Close encounters of the prickly kind

I live in the country… deep in the country.  I often lay in bed at night wondering what this or that noise is that I hear outside.  Most are brief, and I chalk them up to the wind or some scurrying critter, but last night I was awakened around 2:30 a.m. by a loud, incessant noise.  It sounded like some animal with huge claws was pawing at the porch – imagine the motion a dog makes to dig a hole.  At first, I imagined a big raccoon scraping against the bird feeder post.  But the noise kept going and going.

I went downstairs, but I couldn’t really see anything out the windows, and the noise was so loud that I retreated back up to the bedroom – but not before grabbing a high-powered flashlight.  I then, from my safe distance, removed the screen from the bedroom window and opened it.  I shone the flashlight down onto the deck and spotted him… a very large porcupine chewing very noisily on a board.  While annoyed, I was in awe of this curious creature whose likeness I had never seen in person.

My flashlight did not seem to bother him one bit – even when shown directly on his face.  I closed up the window and returned downstairs to formulate a strategy to make him go away.  This would not prove easy.

He was only about 15 feet from the back door, so I tried banging my big, yellow flashlight against the metal door frame but got no reaction.  I then yelled and pounded my fists on the glass of the door.  Nothing.  I opened the door a slight bit and yelled some more.  No reaction.  I then went into the kitchen and retrieved a large, metal bowl and a wooden spoon.  I proceeded to bang the spoon around in the bowl with the door slightly ajar.  Clearly porcupines don’t have the best hearing because this prickly guy did not care one bit about what I was doing.

Despondent, I found my camera and decided to take some video of this rare (I hope) visitor.  I shown my flashlight on him for some added light, and he went about his business for a few minutes.

About halfway through the video, you can hear how loud he was being.  Feeling desperate, I decided I needed to throw something at him.  Not to hurt him – just to scare him.  So, I threw the wooden spoon very forcefully in his direction, and that made him bristle up.  All his glorious spikes puffed out, making him into a spiny beach ball.  He seemed miffed, so I then opened and closed the door really loudly a few times in succession, and he reluctantly lumbered off down the deck and into the driveway.

I felt victorious!  It was now about 3:00 a.m., so I decided what better time than now to edit this video and send it to my sweetheart, who was sadly traveling and missed the show.  While I was at my computer, our water softener started pumping away in the basement.  But what was that I heard over the drone?  Was that… Yes, he was back!  Grind, grind, chomp, chomp!

I opened and closed the door a bunch more times, and he again lumbered back down the deck.  I could not let this be the routine for the rest of the night, so I ran into the kitchen and rifled through the spices until I found the chili powder.  I grabbed that and some ground pepper and, after a quick look around, ran out and poured the spices onto the area of wood where he’d been gnawing.

Do hedgehogs like chili powder?

You can see the splinters from his activities, covered with pepper and chili powder.  I don’t know if the spices worked, but thankfully,  I did not hear from him again during the night.  This morning, I pondered if perhaps the chimney scrubber attracted him to porch… it sort of looks like one of his own.IMAG0588


Whenever you think that biodiversity on this planet isn’t important, think about how awful life would be without close encounters like this one.  There is an incalculable, intrinsic value to nature.

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