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North American porcupines are nocturnal creatures that can be found foraging throughout Lassen and Plumas forests. Their diet consists mainly of plant material and they are especially fond of young pines and new growth bark, which they gnaw on to get to the succulent tissue beneath. Photo submitted

Porcupines in Chester? You betcha!

Adventurers hiking the Collins Pine Nature Trail may come upon this tree. Check around the base of the tree to find the bark pieces left over from many porcupine meals. Photo by Steve Fleming

Yes, there are porcupines in Chester. In fact they are the second largest rodent to be found in our area. The largest rodents are beavers and we have plenty of those!

The origin of the name porcupine comes from the old French word “porcespin,” which means thorn pig. The Latin root words are porcus (pig) and spina (thorns).

The North American Porcupine is the species we are likely to encounter in our local forests. They go about their business at night (nocturnal) so the chance of seeing one is not great.

Porcupines are slow moving creatures. Why hurry when you are covered with needle sharp quills?

Contrary to popular belief porcupines cannot throw or fire their quills at predators. However, they can whip their tails rapidly — so don’t get too close if you are lucky enough to happen upon one!

The porcupine’s diet consists mainly of plant material. They seem especially fond of young pines and new growth bark, which they gnaw on to get to the succulent tissue beneath. They also like the flavor of salt, which in our forests can be hard to find. Where might you find salt in the forest?

Years ago, before power chainsaws were used, foresters dropped trees using crosscut handsaws.

On hot summer days the foresters’ sweat saturated their gloves and the handles of their saws. Coming back to the work site the next day they might find their gloves and wooden saw handles chewed on by porcupines looking for a source of salt.

Are you interested in finding fresh evidence of porcupine activity here in Chester? Let me invite you to visit the Collins Pine Nature Trail just beyond our baseball field at the Truman-Collins Sport Complex.

The winter trailhead is west of the field behind the Almanor Recreation Center. Look for the big red signs directing you to the trail. Take a map from the dispenser just above the WELCOME sign.

Then follow the trail to post #3 and go slightly beyond it toward the mill. See the pine tree next to the trail and look up to find the chewing marks. Check around the base of the tree to find all the bark pieces leftover from previous feasts.

If we have a new snow, porcupine tracks can be seen as well.

Enjoy the forest and see you on the trail!

A view of the underside of stripped bark chewed by a porcupine to get to the succulent tissue beneath. Photo by Steve Fleming

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