What is this?Do you know what this is?  I came across this while on one of my bow hunting conditioning hikes the other day.  It is early July and I only have a couple of months to get back in shape for my Colorado elk bow hunt.  It looks a bit like rabbit pellets or maybe dear or elk droppings, but it is none of those.  I have come across this a few years ago and couldn’t figure out what it could be until I did a bit of research.

Here is another picture that might provide a bit more context.  Got it figured out yet? 

It is a pile of porcupine dung.  The tree is a pretty good give away.  No other animal droppings like this would be centered around a tree.  This tree is the porcupine’s home base.Porcupine Dung

I found this particular porky when my Lab, Seka, did an abrupt stop and was obviously “locked on” to something.  Fearing a skunk, or bear cub, I hurried forward to warn her off.  I didn’t need to.  She had an instinctive reaction of caution.  While tying to get a couple of pictures of the porcupine, I noticed her pup making a high-speed run to the den tree.  Mom didn’t move much except to turn her back to Seka and I.

This is the second time I have found a porky den tree recently.  This particular tree was a sycamore tree, while the last time I found one it was a large white pine.

Porcupines are common across all of North America and for that matter across the world.  This particular sub-species is the North American Porcupine, or Canadian Porcupine.  These are some of the biggest rodents, second only to the beaver in North America.


Porcupines are relatively slow-moving mammals and are easily caught and killed as a survival food.  I have never eaten one, but I understand that their meet is very tasty.  But watch out for their quills.  Although there are a number of carnivores that prey on the porcupine, they must do so with care.  There is a common myth that porkies can throw their quills.  That is not true.  However, when threatened they will typically try to keep their tail toward the threat.  They can whip that tail very fast and catch the predator with a mouth full of quills that may kill the predator even after the demise of the porcupine.

Should you ever find yourself lost or in a wilderness survival situation, remember to watch for one of these rodents.  They may just save your life.