A Porcupine of Our Own

Aerial map of Lighthouse Drive, Horseshoe Bay, TX

Alert Gazette readers will recall this post in which I recount a porcupine sighting in our neighborhood documented by someone other than myself. Debbie and I have not spotted a porcupine in the wild (other than roadkill), and it’s been kind of a disappointment.

But that changed yesterday. We decided to try a new running route, so we drove a few miles and parked at the end of the pavement of Lighthouse Drive in Horseshoe Bay. Lighthouse Drive is a narrow (probably 100 or so yards at its widest point) three-quarter mile long peninsula, about half of which is paved, and the rest is a dirt road that leads to the actual lighthouse that give the street its name.

We parked at the entrance to the lighthouse path and started walking down it as a warmup. It was about ten minutes or so before 7:00 a.m. and the sun was beaming down; we were in for a warm and sweaty run. We had walked for less than a minute when we spotted this creature ambling toward us.

Photo - Porcupine
A handsome specimen, indeed

This is a North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). I’m far from expert about these mammals (remember the part about never seeing one in the wild?), but the coloring on this one is rather more interesting than most of the photos that Google serves up in its search results.

The dirt path to the lighthouse is bordered by a series of smallish trees, mostly palms and mesquite, interspersed with a few larger species. I suppose that an arboreal creature like a porcupine could find shelter in the branches but it doesn’t seem to be an ideal habitat. Then again, what do I know? It could be headed for the more traditional woodsy landscape along the developed portion of Lighthouse Drive. I’m sure the owners of the multi-million dollar houses on the street are thrilled to have a prickly ROUS living in and dining on their trees.

Porcupines — much like skunks — have little to fear from run-of-the-mill humans like us, so it paid us little mind, other than to pause for an instant when my shadow moved across it while I was videoing the encounter. And, speaking of videos, here ’tis:

That’s Lake LBJ in the background. This section of the peninsula is even narrower than the paved section, perhaps as little as 60 feet wide. With so much water on either side, one might wonder…can porcupines swim? And the answer is that they’re very good swimmers. Those quills covering its body are hollow and act as flotation devices in the aggregate. So I suppose it’s possible that this one doesn’t even live on or near the peninsula; it’s just taking a breather after a paddle across the lake.

As always, we were thrilled to encounter yet another denizen of the remarkable variety of wildlife inhabiting the Texas Hill Country. Now, about that chupacabra…


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