Confirming the presence and local distribution of porcupine (Erithizon dorsatum) on the White Memorial Foundation property, Litchfield and Morris, Litchfield County, USA.

We observed our first definitive evidence of porcupines on the property on March 15, 2011.  Lukas Hyder, WMF Asst. Property Superintendant, observed 4 to 5 sugar maple (Acer saccharum) trees that were recently de-barked by chewing animal while performing the forest inventory.  The de-barked regions of the tree boles were approximately 10 to 15 feet above the forest floor; each tree was approximately 6 to 10 inches dbh (Figure 1).  
Figure 1:  Sugar maple tree debarked by porcupine.
Photo By: James Fischer
Trails in snow, claw marks on tree boles, gnawing tooth marks, and nipped twigs of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) (Figure 2) and red maple (Acer rubrum) (Figure 3)  were observed in this vicinity. 

Figure 2:  Yellow birch nipped twigs by porcupine.
Photo By:  James Fischer
Figure 3: Red maple nipped twigs by porcupine.
Photo By James Fischer

To date, all of this evidence was observed in the ravine and valley that extends SSW of Plunge Pool across the Beaver Pond trail and ends at the Teal Pond-south woods road.  We have not yet observed the animal, only the evidence of its activities.

Since this is our first observation of this species on the property, we need to establish if this animal is a resident or using it as a corridor.  Summer home ranges expand greatly from winter home ranges (Roze, 2009).  However, attempting to capture, mark, or track this lone animal will be costly and time consuming.  We would like to attempt a novel approach to detecting the presence and potential local distribution of this animal on the property.  Porcupines have a seasonal salt drive from April to August, which peaks in May (Roze, 2009).  We propose to utilize this behavior to our advantage by placing “salt licks” in the local vicinity of where we made our initial observations.  We are going to distribute salt soaked stakes (1"x1"x20" white pine) throughout the 5 Ponds region and to observe the presence/amount of chewed wood at each station.  If the animal remains on the property then the wood should be chewed by the porcupine.  We'll be replacing the stakes every month to assure that the stations display a relatively constant amount of salt because the rain will leach the salt from the stakes over time.

We are going to need a lot of help with this project, so if you are interested in volunteering to help us.  Please contact James Fischer.

Roze, U. 2009.  The North American Porcupine.  2 ed. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.  pp. 282

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