Saturday

Porcupine.... Skull, Quills, Bones


North American Porcupine... Rodentia... Erenthizontidae... Erethizon dorsatum...

Front-on view of Porcupine skull... showing its bright orange gnawing teeth...

...they prefer tree bark and needles, but during different seasons eats leaves, grass, berries, seeds, nuts and flowers... when I imagine a porcupine with a flower hanging out of its mouth, it makes me feel sentimental towards them... prickly untouchable critter nibbling on a delicate flower...




Bottom jaw as seen from above...

This is probably one of the most intact skulls in my collection... especially since it has all its teeth...



Top skull upper jaw as seen from beneath...

Their habitat is widespread throughout wooded areas of North America... they do not hibernate and are active all year... their habit of eating the bark on trees, which eventually kills the trees, is not looked on too fondly and for this they are considered pests... but we must realize they are just part of the ecosystem...



...size of this skull... 4" front to back... 3" top to bottom... 2½" wide...

Large male porcupines can grow to about 30" long... head to tip of tail... and weigh 12 lb. ... females are slightly smaller...



Their teeth are amazing... I slid one out to show the length of them... they are almost 3" long and slide far inside the skull... top and bottom teeth are the same size...



I am imagining rabbit's skulls and teeth are the same.. possibly all rodents teeth are, as they are continually growing... and need constantly honed...




Top of skull... from above... beautiful lines and texture...

Porcupines have a detrimental love of salt... leading them to roadsides and to death...

this love of salt has also lured them to chew the handles off garden tools, canoe paddles, axe handles and saddles... just for a taste of that salty sweat we leave behind... they are only doing what comes naturally...



Slow moving... short sighted... sleeps most of the day...second largest North American rodent, next to beavers... long sharp claws to climb trees..

Porcupines are excellent swimmers due to their hollow quills giving them buoyancy... Quills cover their tail, back, sides, neck and top of head... they are approx. 3 " long...




When fully grown, a Porcupine may have as many as 30,000 quills... plenty to go around and leave a few behind when needed.... The quills are covered with many tiny backward facing barbs at the ends... ... he does not throw or shoot his quills as is commonly thought..

When the Porcupine is threatened, he turns his back... stamps his little feet... and raises and shakes his lightly fixed quills as a warning... just a matter of self-defense.... No, there are no Attack Porcupines...... there are mostly, curious would-be predators, who sniff around them, get just a bit too close and stick their noses where they don't belong.... The only true predators of the porcupine are the Fisher and Humans... The fisher grabs it by the nose, flips it on its back and attacks its unprotected chest and belly...




Our dogs have had a few unfortunate interactions with these creatures.. ending up with quills in their noses... lots of yelping...

...we even got quills stuck into us when we were moving our firewood around... a porcupine had taken up residence in the woodshed for a while and unknowingly left his calling cards after he was gone... they really stick in! ...now we know what the dogs or any other inquisitive creature feels like, when they come in contact with them...

...painful and difficult to remove... but if not removed, they have the ability to continue working their way into the victim... ... better not to let this happen... we have found it easiest to pull out the quills with pliers... first cover the dogs eyes so they don't see the pliers coming and grab the quill or quills close to the dog's skin...




When we discovered the skull in the forest, there were quite a few skeletal bones remaining with it... so we gathered them up too...




I cut the small hollow leg bones into bead size lengths with a jewelers saw ... they were easily threaded (here combined with black glass) to make a rather delicate primitive bracelet... I like the soft hue of the bone... on the ends are closures I created from brass...

...just a note.. bone has a rather unpleasant odor when sawn or drilled... any type of bone dust should not be breathed...




The male porcupine is a solitary animal for most of the year... in late fall he uses his sharp hearing and keen sense of smell to find a partner... after mating the female drives the male away... interesting, hummm... a single offspring is born 7 months later... can walk at once... climb in a week... and are quite playful... they take 4 years to become fully grown...

... maligned and misunderstood... Really not such a bad creature... they just like to chew...

...oh and remember ... Handle with care!!



...porcupine and quill drawings... ink and wash... from my sketchbook...

46 comments:

laura said...

Love the porcupine ink drawing; it's lovely! I found a bit of a jaw with three rows of molar-type teeth while walking along the Delaware Bay last summer--in 20 years, I'd never seen anything like it, and was hoping it was something exotic. Turned out to be a drumfish jaw; they eat clams. It was quite an exciting find nonetheless.

denise said...

When I was 4 I dug the molars out of a cow skull in my next door neighbors yard. I didn't know that people put old skulls out for decoration, and I just thought it was beautiful and just lying there. ;) I got into so much trouble. I had to take back the teeth, apologize, my parents were embarrassed. Still love old bones after all these years. There is so much texture, and those curves, and light and shadow play so differently with each different piece. Nice.

The porcupine is wonderful.

Sandy said...

Great porcupine drawing. I enjoyed seeing this and reading your post.

pRiyA said...

Hi Gwen, what a mine of information this post, about the porcupine, a creature that's always fascinated me. As a child, I once picked up a beautiful quill and my aunt shooed me away. Apparently bringing a quill into the house is 'unlucky'and causes squabbles! But I have three now, picked up in jungle treks.
Your pictures of the skull is absolutely rivetting. The first picture, I thought was a scupture.
The bracelet out of the leg bones is gorgeous as is your beautiful ink and wash picture. I can't help looking through this post over and over again.

Danielle Barlow said...

What a wonderful post Gwen!
Skulls are such beautiful things. My husband and I both pick up any we find, and have quite a collection (much to friends disgust). I love bird skulls best of all, they are unbelievably delicate and detailed.
My husband has been painstakingly trying to reconstruct a buzzard skeleton from and old corpse he found and cleaned up. It's a slow process, and causes a bit of swearing when small bones don't fit, but it will look amazing when finished!

pRiyA said...

i couldn't help noticing the inside of the porcupine's teeth. it's all patterny.
i wish i could lay my hands on such a skull. what a great series of drawings it would make!

Ruth said...

Wow, what a remarkable post. I'm sitting here with my mouth hanging open. The creature is so interesting, thank you for the many bits of information, which I didn't know.

As always, your sketches are beautiful. The thought of one of those needles sticking in - OUCH. Has it happened to you or John or Max?

The bracelet: I saw this and I had that same old feeling I get when I come here, Gwen - a sense of connecting with the ages. I don't know anyone who truly embraces nature in such tangible ways as you. And with such beauty. Ahh. Thanks for being you!

Sangz said...

hey gwen!!! thank u for ur comment. felt really nice to know my blog made someone see a thing differently. thank u. i am sorry but i am yet to read ur blog. it looks verrrrrry interesting though n i promise to read it sometime real soon!!!

Gwen Buchanan said...

Laura .. that sounds like an exciting find to me.. who knows where it had floated in from.. and something like a jaw with teeth could have been around for quite some time.. Lucky You!!

kathi, we tried both ways of removing quills.. snipping the ends and not snipping.. It didn't seem to make much difference with the dogs... they were just glad when it was over with!! Covering their eyes seems to be the secret.

Denise, great story..proves even a child appreciates the beauty of the what is underneath! Too bad they didn't let you keep them...

Thanks Sandy!!

Priya, yes I find skulls so inspirational.. it is always a surprise when we come across one...
the North American Native Indians are well known for the intricate patterns they created on clothing, bags,moccasins,baskets, etc... works of exquisite beauty.. just from using objects that many would find worthless.. I always admired this ingenuity...

Danielle, I only have 1 bird skull... how great to have a collection of them.. The first time I saw one I was so surprised that the beak was part of the skeletal structure.. I love them.. Your husband has patience! resembling a whole buzzard skeleton.. oh what a delight that would be to see!!!

Thanks Ruth, there are so many more interesting little tidbits about this creature that I would love to have posted but ran out of time... ... yes we all have had a few punctures from their quills over the years , not directly, but from the woodpile and trying to help the dogs..

Thanks Sangz, !!!

pRiyA said...

Gwen, pardon me for leaving a comment yet again, but you've been Tagged! Check out my blog for details. No obligations though.

Anet said...

Those are crazy teeth! Sniffy has the same color teeth:)
I just adore your sweet drawing of the porcupine!
Another favorite of mine is your drawing of the human skull. I was glad to see it on your side bar. That is just amazing work!

Gwen Buchanan said...

Priya, you rascal you, you can come visit as much as you want!!!

Thanks Anet!! Ahhh, Sniffy has bright orange teeth too.. I just went and checked Max's rats front teeth and sure enough... Bright Orange!.... so that must be the natural shade of most all Rodents teeth...

J said...

Fascinating post Gwen, I read the whole thing from top to bottom!

I had no idea that so many people were as fascinated with skulls as I am...I have a reproduction human skull by my monitor - the juxtaposition of the ancient design of the skull and the modern design of the monitor works for me.

The details you provided about porcupines are excellent and I learned quite a bit...orange teeth!

Love the pen drawings also - the perfect way to round out the post.

Deborah Carr said...

What a lovely introduction to a much misunderstood creature. Perspective is all in the angle of viewing.

Your talk of bone jewellery reminded me of a necklace I once bought for my mother - a chain of roses carved from cow bones. It was quite exquisite, but if I'd told her what it was, she would not have worn it, so I let her think it was ivory.

"A most curious thing," she said to me several days later, "the dog won't leave it alone..."

Gwen Buchanan said...

Oh great to hear J, I'm glad you still have your skull sitting proudly on display...nice to keep in touch with what we're made of isn't it?... keeps us in touch with ourselves...
...my son just told me that when his rats were babies their teeth were much lighter so I believe they become a richer color as they age..

Deborah, I have come across some people's aversion to beads, jewelry or things created from bone at craft fairs over the years.. My father bless his soul, used to tell me that I should put all my skulls away in case it scared people when they came to our shop..
..that's very funny about the dog showing the keen interest in your mom's necklace!!!! Cute story!!

rauf said...

oh !

Shelley (Nighthawk) said...

Oh Gwen, once again you have inspired questions and observations! I am going to check Ollie's teeth when I get home! That is interesting! Why have I never noticed that the teeth are orange on such creatures? Could it be because I have yet to actually 'notice'? I would luv to see this creature in person. Love the drawings too...:)

'til next time my friend

rauf said...

i'll vote for the female porcupine Gwen. Sensible thing she is.

this was written by a student about king solomon

Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.

Shelley said...

The name "rodent" comes from "rodere," a Latin word that means to gnaw. Okay, so now that I am here, I am not so sure Ollie and I see eye-to-eye on his showing me his teeth. However, this I shall take as a good thing...afterall he could be showing them to me without my wishing and using his orange/yellowish sharp teeth. So, Gwen I shall take your pix view and be happy for now.

flyinamber said...

beautiful story and sketch of porcupine!so educative!
love the skull..and thebone jewelry too..
porcupines do not live here with us but we have beavers here..
my degou has also orange teeth..I think,all rodents teeth I ever saw were orange..

Gwen Buchanan said...

Ahhh thanks Shelly.. good to knaw, I mean know... at least Ollie is friendly...
I believe the latin meaning of porcupine means spiny pig!

Rauf aren't you funny! How many do you have??

Thank you,Dada, You have a dagou too?.. my son's friend has a couple... I remember him telling me how much they really, really, really love chewing... I never would have thought that beavers lived in your part of the world.. I wonder if they are different than the ones over here...

Debbi said...

What an incredible find! You are so lucky to happen upon a porcupine skull and remains. What I would give! How many other skulls do you have in your collection? Guess what! I have a skull collection too. Sometime I will photograph it and put it on my blog.
I love the porcupine beads. Did you polish them? They look so shiny. I also love your pen and ink drawing. Very elegant and yet playful. Nice lines Gwen.

Jo Horswill said...

Gwen, this is all quite amazing.
We have echidna's here is Aus, gorgeous little snouted mammals, covered in short quills, that like to suck up ants!
I love your ink drawing. Love the quills, but wouldn't want to be spiked by one!

Pam said...

Jo beat me to it with the echidna's.I love these shy Australian creatures and their slow ambling walk.We don't hear too much about porcupines and echidnas but my favourite Beatrix Potter character Mrs. Tiggywinkle admirably represents the species. Such an interesting post, thank you.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Thanks Debbi, I'd love to see your collection... I have managed to scrounge up about 11 skulls at the present...my sister lives in the northern Canadian Rockies and the skulls they have found there when they travel in the woods are gorgeous!!!
The bead bones became polished simply by the oils in my skin au natural, as I wore it nonstop for quite some time.. Thanks for asking..

Thanks Jo, Those little echidna's are so cute all rolled up in a ball... and that little snout is almost like a beak... They appear somewhat safer to handle than our porky... The animals of Australia are so unusual...really lets us see what evolution will do when species are separated... very cool...


Hi Pam, I love Beatrix Potter's characters.. I made a quilt for my oldest daughter when she was little with many Jemima Puddle Ducks appliqued on the front... we had a house fire and a small portion of it we managed to save and I sewed it to a pillow for her.. When her daughter was born 3 Christmas' ago I made her a quilt too with one little Jemima Puddle Duck appliqued to the back... felt good...

Jacky said...

What a gorgeous creature and thank you so much for all the wonderful photos... I couldnt believe the length of those teeth!!!
We have a similar little creature in Australia, the Echidna (my favourite native animal). He's cute, but prickly too. At this time of year we see quite a few of them about as we are out in the country.
Wonderful, interesting post...thanks.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Thank you Jacky, your little echidna looks just like a toy...or a little pincushion... we don't have any specific mammals in Canada that specifically eat ants.. they could be very useful at certain times of the year... and the echidna will lay an egg too??... how unusual!!!

painter girl said...

Beautiful post. Beautiful animal. Love the pictures and your wonderful writing.
Thank you for your blog. It is always an amazing visit.

dberube-art said...

Wonderful, wonderful post, thanks for sharing that. ;0)

herhimnbryn said...

Thankyou for this! Those teeth are amazing and I learnt a great deal about this marvelous creature.

Don said...

Oh, this is very cool. I love the coloring of the teeth. I also love the jewelry you made from the bones. That is something. It looks like ivory.

We dissect owl pellets and find thi on a mini scale with the mouse skeletons we find. It is amazing how long these teeth are!

Very informative!

Seth said...

What an amazing find. I can just imagine what it must have been like to first come upon it. And your drawing is fantastic. I can almost feel the quills!

Gwen Buchanan said...

Thank you Leanne, Your appreciation for nature too, is clearly evident, from every post you make..

David, I thank you for coming here and viewing... your art work with the "Alice in Wonderland" play was outstanding!!

Hi herhimnbryn, you always delight my curiosity and make me think,when I visit you..Thank you!

Don, I love the owl pellets too.. Max and I found some on the salt marsh last fall... mouse bones and tiny bird beaks in ours.. we all should post some of these with detail shots of the conglomerated contents... they tell so much, don't they... Thanks!

Seth, It was a thrill for sure to come across it... and it is a wonder that bones last very long in the forest with all the hungry animals.. some of the other skulls I have found have gnawing on the side of the skull ...
I always enjoy all the aged and worn finds that you incorporate into your work!!

jazworks said...

Gwen,
I must admit I've never been drawn to bones or skulls or skeletons but your post makes them so much less threatening and actually interesting to look at. Your presentation, story and beautiful drawings about the Porcupine were fascintating. I will definitely look at bones in a different way, and one day, who knows, I may even seek them out. As my feelings about rust and seeing the beauty in it has grown, so may my bone thoughts. Wanted to thank you for visiting the InnerWorks blog and leaving your kind comments. The words and pictures for each of the artists in my post were my interpretation and response to their themes. They will surely blow everyone away when you see future postings of their actual altered books and their own interpretation of their chosen theme. Keep watching. Thanks again.
Jill Zaheer

asti said...

I find skulls ans bones very beautiful. My Mum too, she collects any she finds on Dartmoor and has qite a selection of sheep skulls in the garden. She jokes about how the window cleaner only came once............and she never heard from him again!
Nice to learn a bit more about the porcupine. I'm almost glad we don't have them here ;)

flyinamber said...

yes,I have one degou girl named Punky because her tail..it is not like rat's,it has very short hair along and a "brush" of longer hair on the top..she is very cute and likes tickl(e)ing (i'm not shure what's correct)..
the beavers lived here til the MIddle Age but then were exterminated because of their fur..today we have beavers again,I think their relatives were brought just from Canada and so our beavers are as yours..I'll try to make some photos but I have to take a walk and find them when I catch more time..

Gwen Buchanan said...

Hi Jazworks,
I have always loved things that have been around longer than me and still seem to endure...the more you are around them the more you will appreciate them..I'll keep an eye peeled for the progress on the books...Thanks.

Asti, Your mom sounds like a soul I could relate to... I'd love to see her garden... Thanks for the the window washer story! Funny!... probably easier to take a walk in the woods where you are without worrying about wandering creatures with prickly things that dogs find incredibly interesting! I never realized England never had them though...

Hi Dada,, your little Punky sounds so cute...love her tail!!
so the beavers were exterminated... so glad to know that you have them again and originating from Canada.. that's wild!!! Thank you...

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Just fascinating. Such a beautiful little creature. I have to admit though, I'm rather grateful they haven't taken up residence near us...Edward would frequently have a nose full of quills, I am certain!

Gwen Buchanan said...

Pamela, they don't wander close too often... I think they like to avoid the dogs as much as I wish the dogs would avoid them... and since I believe your little Edward is adventuresome, I'm sure he would be inquisitive enough to investigate with Tabitha... although I am hoping she has learned..

AscenderRisesAbove said...

wow that was intense (not in a bad way). The skulls reminded me of Georgia O’Keeffe's paintings of skulls. Here is one in case you don't know what I mean:
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/geok/ho_52.203.htm

Gwen Buchanan said...

I see what you mean, AscenderRS... I have always thought of monumental flowers when I thought of O'Keefe... Thanks for sending over the link!!

rivergardenstudio said...

Gwen, what an amazing skull, I love the teeth and the jaw... Did you see the quill on my latest post? It was a gift from a student and is several inches long. Your drawings have so much character and movement, and the necklace is divine! Roxanne

Robyn said...

Great post! I love the bracelet and your sketches....and..well I just love everything!

Gwen Buchanan said...

Thank you, Roxanne, The teeth just blow me away.. They slide almost to the back of the skull on the inside .. can you image if we grew teeth like that?... all of our houses would need "chewing posts".. now that would be pretty primitive.. glad we didn't evolve in that direction!!
Can't wait to see your Quill!!

Robyn, Thank you for being so sweet!!

Kathy McCreedy said...

Good morning! What a wonderful watercolor drawing! I LOVE the porcupine! And thank you for all the information... such fun...
hope you are doing well!

Gwen Buchanan said...

Afternoon Kathy!! Thank you!! hope all is well with you too!!