Monthly Archives: July 2012

Is that a *bleeping* beaver?

 – subtitle  Life In The Woods

– sub-subtitle  When I Write

Early on Saturday morning, when hubbie and I were fast asleep, our fifteen-year-old son’s voice roused us.  “Hey guys.”
“Huh?  What?”  (this is us, barely coherent)
“Don’t you hear that?”  He is now joined by his thirteen-year-old brother.
“Hear what?” we ask, still barely coherent.
“That banging.  It sounds like someone is trying to come in the patio door.”
Flash back to July 15, the day I took a post-vacation tour around the house and discovered a 2-inch band of destruction where our vinyl-clad patio doors had been gnawed down to the composite wood.  The little ledge below the glass?  Gone. 
Hubbie and I could now hear the noise that brought both kids into our room and it really did sound like an adult man whamming against the doors with his fist.  If I hadn’t know about the creature eating our house I would have dialed 911.  Pretty certain we were not in any danger, my most pressing concern was finding out what species of animal we were dealing with.  
In some moment of brilliance in the mid-1990s we had asked the electrician to put a lightswitch for our outside floodlights at the top of the stairs.  “OK,” I instructed the younger son.  “You go stand at our bathroom window.  I’m gonna turn on the lights and you watch to see what is out there.”  Both boys crammed in next to the toilet, I flicked the switch, and…drum roll please…they couldn’t see anything.  Hubbie and I rushed down the steps.  We could see out the window about halfway down the stairs which is when I uttered the question a person never expects to ask in their own home at 1 o’clock in the morning.  “Is that a *bleeping* beaver?”  I am not certain I actually swore but I’m pretty sure I did.
The silhouette was definitely beaver-like but hubbie immediately said “No, its a porcupine.”
We’ve seen porcupines a few times.  After all, we live in the woods smack up against a large section of game land in Pennsylvania.  We once found a huge one that had been shot but lived long enough to crawl down to die along the dirt lane we live on.  At the time we wondered “Why would anyone shoot a porcupine?”  Now we know why.  They eat your house.
So, hubbie and I walk over to the door while the kids continued to hide upstairs.  I turned on the porch light.  That porcupine could have cared less.  He had stopped gnawing on the doors but was not at all perturbed by the light.  We had a bear visit at night too, years ago.  Same attitude.  Yogi peeked in at me as I washed dishes then proceeded to destroy a suet feeder while we watched, took pictures, talked about him.  Not bothered a bit, just like the nocturnal visitor at hand.
Hubbie — whose name is Scott, btw — kicked the door, and Porky trundled back about ten feet.  Porcupines don’t move very fast.  I guess when you have 30,000 barbed quills protruding out of your body you don’t need to move fast.  He then stopped to peer back, as if to say, “I’m not quite done snackin’ on your door.”  (From what I’ve read, animals eat composite wood because of salt/minerals in the glue.)
I was pretty annoyed by this time.  I was awake.  My doors were damaged.  And this porcupine had some attitude I didn’t really appreciate in my wildlife.  Had it never seen humans?  Had the deer and squirrels not warned it about the hairless animals on two legs that carried sticks barking fire and death?  I opened the door, unarmed, thinking I would show it a thing or too.  
Once again, that porcupine could have cared less.  I think it may have actually started coming toward me.  Until I slammed the door.  Apparently porcupines respond more to sound than light.  It waddled further away so I opened the door again to yell at it and hiss.  Scott said, “Honey, what are you doing?”  
Porky looked back at my antics.  By now I could read his smart-alec mind.  “Lady, you want a piece of me?  You really should listen to the smart human.” So I slammed the door again.
After Porky disappeared into the woods Scott said, “Well, I guess I’m gonna have to shoot it.”  Only three critters who regularly interrupted our sleep have ever survived.  Peter – age 15, Owen – age 13, and whatever lived in the upper corner of our bedroom wall for about 3 months in 2010.
We went back to bed but I couldn’t sleep.  I actually laughed out loud, hearing myself ask if that was a beaver.  My insomnia didn’t stem from fear of the obstinate porcupine or concern about the doors.  I lay there writing this blog in my head.  Telling the story.  I do alot of plotting when I’m in the quiet darkness.  After an hour or so I must have drifted off.
Owen told me he had to run Porky off again around 3AM.  I guess I won’t bother applying the primer and paint I bought yet to the exposed wood.
A little research revealed that you can theoretically repel porcupines with fox or coyote urine.  Wow.  Imagine our surprise to find bottled red fox urine — not to be confused with gray fox urine — at a local FISH HUNT CAMP store.  For just $10 you can own 16 oz. of brown fluid that smells like skunk.  I have dutifully sprayed it in a perimeter around the patio with high hopes of repelling not only Porky, but the deer that are eating my hosta.
If the fox pee fails, I apologize in advance for the gunfire.