Friday, June 27, 2008

Novel Solutions


For Laughing Wolf - the other half of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot's painting, Just Before Sunrise, pictured Wednesday.

So is this post.

How do you herd a porcupine?

Of course, carefully is the first word that come to mind. Patiently is the next. They are not, after all, as fast as cats. Or pigs.

I once had an elderly neighbour whose house seemed to attract creatures, usually of the semi-domestic type like bats and mice; and who would call me in a flutter to eliminate/destroy/ remove a variety of intruders. Frequently.

Her 25 pound tomcat was above such mundane matters. He preferred to lie in the window and be insulted by blue jays -- which they did with uproarous delight.

Still, I was surprised when she informed me she had a porcupine in her basement. We live in town.

Rabbits could be expected on occasion. Skunks and racoons doing garbage patrol and snacking in compost bins. Even the odd travelling muskrat (the St. Lawrence is just down over the hill). But not a porcupine. No.

But it was, a young one, hunched fearfully in a corner, all spines erect.

A prickly problem. Where I was born in the backwoods, one reaches for the .22 or the shotgun. But I had become domesticated too, and besides there were by-laws.

Fortunately, we had on loan from the Works Department one of those cage traps -- because another neighbour had, rather callously, let loose several black and white rabbits into the wilds of our town's West Ward. Several liked my garden.

It took a while to encourage the poor little beast into the cage, longer because of the flutter from my neighbour, hovering behind me in her bare feet.

A tarp in the trunk of our car and a trip to the Conservation Area/Wildlife Preserve some miles outside of town to set the creature free concluded the operation. All except for picking up quills shed in the excitement.

How do you herd a porcupine?

With a long-handled garden hoe.

And sometimes, one should think inside the box.

51 comments:

Ric said...

I love it. The Take-Charge Bernita wielding a hoe while barefoot trembling homeowner trembles a safe distance behind.

Just how I picture you. And very revealing of your character.

Bernita said...

Eh, Ric, I'm the practical sort.

Whirlochre said...

Has Clint Eastwood been informed?

Ric said...

I KNEW that. I was simply pointing out how well you captured the practicality with a few short sentences.

My neighbor called, all atwitter over a baby porcupine in her basement. I pushed the little guy into a cage and hauled him off.

The way you described it did so much more for the reader. And delivers so much more information about your character.

It was a compliment - though I know you have problems with those.

Bernita said...

You're way to deep for my simple mind, Whirl. I have no idea what you mean.

Ric, Dear Guy, I took it as a compliment. Thank you.

laughingwolf said...

aww thank you, bernita, i'm flattered! :)

practical you are, indeed, and i'd not change a thing from how you handled it

just be thankful it was not a pair ready to mate!

apparently they stand on rear legs, facing one another, and the male covers her with his urine, to further arouse himself and prime her... the ensuing spray can reach at least seven feet!

Bernita said...

Laughingwolf, you've just illuminated a expression I overhear as a kid and never understood. "Someone as - fill in the blank - as porcupine piss.

Whirlochre said...

Sorry for being opaque — I just thought it would make a great scene for a movie. You, the porcupine & Ennio Morricone etc.

Lisa said...

That's too funny! My father's house was (is) in New Hampshire and they've occasionally gotten a skunk in their cellar (not basement -- creepy dirt floor cellar) and my favorite method for getting them out was to prop a 2 x 4 from the floor to the open cellar window and put a can of tuna at the top to lure the skunk outside. It actually worked!

Bernita said...

Don't think you know much about porcupines, Whirl!
Be grateful.

Sensible and clever, Lisa.

Lana Gramlich said...

Holy cow! May I never end up with that problem! Good job to you!

Robyn said...

My kids are constantly urging us to move to the country, yet they squeal like 4 year old girls at the occasional mice who invade.

Yeah, that'll work out.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never seen a porcupine in the wild. Or in a basement that is. That would be kind of cool. Glad you had the trap handy. Growing up, we frequently had things in our house, the worst being snakes and once a skunk who wandered in and climbed in the bathtub during a dry summer

BernardL said...

LOL! There are so many good lines in this, I can't pick a favorite. :)

Bernita said...

Lisa, only my neighbour would have acquired a porcupine in the middle of town.

And mice are rather sweet, Robyn - though not in the house.

They're usually in trees, Charles and not all that easily seen. The trap was the lucky coincidence. It would have been much harder to get it into a carboard box.
NO snakes. Please.

Thank you, Bernard.

writtenwyrdd said...

Some friends were renovating their old turn of the century home and had a hole (unbeknownst to them) in the back of the undersink cupboard that had allowed a family of wildlife inside. When they replaced the subfloor, they closed these furry invaders inside the house.

that night, they heard stirrings and discovered their critters of choice were a family of opossums. They hiss like a steaming kettle just like most critters do when upset and cornered. Opossum piss, it should be noted, is as pungeant as any cat's.

raine said...

Sure I'll be in the minority, but awwww--poor thing must've been scared to death. Glad everyone emerged unscathed.

It's a gem of a story. You'd make a wonderful character, Bernita! :)

spyscribbler said...

Wow, you know, I've never seen a real, live porcupine. That's a cool story. And I'm glad you're domesticated, too. :-)

Poor scared thing.

Bernita said...

Probably more so, Written!
Take a lot of Febreeze.

Raine,I felt very sorry for the poor lost thing.
Thank goodness there was a fence between us so the dog couldn't get at it. Might have changed my attitude otherwise.

Bernita said...

Am not entirely domesticated, Natasha, but am law-abiding and willing to live and let live.
One is not allowed to discharge a fire arm within the town limits.

laughingwolf said...

i'm a southern ontario boy [niagara area], but never heard that expression... lol

Bernita said...

Might be just a localism from down east, Laughingwolf.

December/Stacia said...

Lol, it's just how I picture you, too.

On a similar (but not the same) note, we had to call Animal Control a few years back because of a raccoon who'd decided to set up housekeeping behind our house. We mentioned this to the man whose back yard faced ours (part of it anyway; the houses behind were spaced unevenly) and he said, "Oh, yeah. I've been feeding it! Keeps the rats away!"

Rats were not a problem in our neighborhood. The raccoon was. Idiot.

Gabriele C. said...

Ouch Staica, some people are just stupid. Raccoons can become a pest. I've woken up to two half grown ones in my bed once, when I slept at our friend's house at Lake Edersee.

I hate sleeping with the windows closed in summer, but raccoons in the bed are a mixed blessing. They are cute and fluffy, but they also have claws and teeth.

Funny story, Bernita. I'm glad the poor porcupine found a more suitable home now.

writtenwyrdd said...

In San Francisco, having a cat flap was a big mistake. Skunks and racoons often made themselves to home at night, and I defy you to herd an angry racoon or especially a skunk back out the cat flap!

I did not suffer that fate; but some good friends did.

We have lots of wildlife up this way, and I see possums and porcupines along the road on a regular basis. Also, snapping turtles. I've managed to avoid hitting creatures for the most part, but of the smaller things, you really do not want to hit a porcupine, as their quills can pierce the tire.

Sadly, I've nailed a fox, a racoon, a partridge and a snapping turtle. Sometimes you just can't avoid them for other cars of they jump out so close you can't hit them.

Sam said...

Poor ol' porkie pine.
They are rather dangerous - my dog once came home with his entire face full of spines, which swelled and got infected and was just awful. The vet had a horrible time getting them out.

Bernita said...

"Idiot" is right, December!

And they stink, Gabriele.
Yep,it can chew on trees in the Wildlife area to its heart's content.

A racoon, yes. A skunk? I'd try Lisa's bait and switch.
I know, Written. Road kill always saddens me.

Bernita said...

Right, Sam. Need pliars.
Quills will travel along the skin too and one may find pieces months later.

Dave F. said...

What else would you do with a porcupine in the basement?

Think about it. You're in bed one night with the loved one and you say: "Darling, there's a porcupine in the basement"
AND lover says - "yes, it delivered the rubber goods."

Or one day at lunch you hear the fateful words: "help me, help me, help me, there's a porcupine living in my basement and I can't do laundry. I can't get to the jellies and jams, the pickles and the potatoes." And of course the answer is, a) go buy clean underwear when you run out, b) It has good taste in food, and c) a little starch won't hurt it.

Now if it has taken up residence in the wine cellar, THEN you have a problem.

Poor little creature was probably more afraid of your neighbor than she was of it.

Bernita said...

Yes, Dave, the poor befuddled creature probably was.

laughingwolf said...

ok, i'm 'down east', now [hfx] and have not heard it... could be i need to get out more? :O lol

Steve Malley said...

My first answer would have been 'oven mitts'. Which, you know, sort of explains the scars.

The long handle-thing is a much better idea...

Bernita said...

Laughingwolf, it may be ( have been) a localism. Doesn't mean it is ( was) a regionalism.

Bernita said...

Steve, not sure I'd try it even with welder's mitts.

Jeff said...

I'm glad ole Lester wasn't there. He'd have probably thrown a heavy tarp over it, hit it with a sledgehammer, and then cooked the poor critter in a stew! :)

Bernita said...

I wouldn't want the job of skinning one, Jeff!

ChrisEldin said...

I did not need to read Laughing Wolf's description of porcupine mating habits! The image is in my head....
:-)
Glad all is well.

Sarah Hina said...

Writer?...Blogger?...

Now I know you're really a superhero, Bernita. ;) Glad you escaped unscathed!

Bernita said...

She moved eventually, Chris. Life hasn't been as interesting since.

Able to leap over a slow, dumb animal in a single bound, Sarah.

Barbara Martin said...

Nostalgia has its benefits while providing an inner look at the writer.

Josephine Damian said...

Bernita: Off topic, but did you know one of the Weirdly editors is on Twitter?

http://twitter.com/wildchildeditor

Janet Reid has also just joined.

Twitter is a fun, light way to network. If you join, look me up.

Chumplet said...

I hope you kept the quills - you can use them to decorate a suede bag or something.

The raccoons have attacked our green bin several times, dumping the contents on the ground. Rather than re-bag the stinky stuff, we shoved it back in and snapped the bin shut.

Bad Idea. After missing the recycling pickup two weeks in a row, the contents are uber disgusting. I think I'll have to attach a note of apology to the bin for the recycling guys on Tuesday morning.

Bernita said...

We still laugh over the incident, Barbara.

Thank you, Josephine. At present, I'll confine my twitter to the blog.

Sandra, what's you green bin?
Here, the green box is for paper and the blue for glass, metal and plastic.
The only thing I've found that keeps skunks and racoons out of garbage is a bag of dog squat.

Travis Erwin said...

Okay it is wrong but my perverted mind has to say I think it is cool you sued a hoe to avoid getting pricked.

Bernita said...

Deviant...er... devious of me, Travis.

SzélsőFa said...

We don't have porcupines around here, Bernita, but I think you just did the right method.

Here one of the most important and disturbing non-domesticated animal in country AND suburbian houses belongs to the genus Mustela.
They inhabit the attick, spoil it with their sh.t and attacj chicken houses.
The only great solution against them is to give them a party!
You just put a loud portable radio up in the attic for a couple of hours and they disappear for ever.

Bernita said...

Weasels, Szelsofa?
Blood-lusting little critters.
Serial killers in a chicken house, I've been told.
I like solutions like that.

laughingwolf said...

szelsofa, you should read about the weasel-descended critters in charles gramlich's book, 'cold in the light'... talk about your 'blood-lusting' ;) lol

SzélsőFa said...

No, it's not weasel. I've checked some sources, but there seems to be a confusion re: names of members of the Mustelidae.
It's rather a marten or foin, I suppose. I'm confused about these names...
Even in Hungarian, some of them are interchangeable and apply to more than one species.

SzélsőFa said...

And yes, the one we had around here killed 4-5 of our chicken during the winter of 2006/2007.
But I wrote a 'poem' about it - you never know where inspiration may come from...

laughingwolf said...

it's my understanding all are in the weasel family, which includes the largest of them, the wolverine...

btw - i'm part finno-ugric, so we could be distant cousins, szelsofa ;)