I'm guessing you weren't expecting to see a picture of a Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)!
This photo was not taken near Bodega Head, but was kindly shared with us by JoAnn Mohr who was lucky enough to see this Porcupine near Crescent City on 24 November 2014.
The last time I saw a Porcupine was in Otis, Oregon, in 2002...slowly rambling across a field. I haven't seen one in California yet, so I had to do some research about their status here.
It sounds like they're around, but that perhaps populations are patchy, and more common in forested areas east of Interstate 5. In 2012, the Sacramento Bee published an article in which they discussed possible declines in Porcupine populations statewide, perhaps since the 1970s. The declines have been attributed to changes in habitat, poisoning (rodenticides), and a very low reproductive potential (see below).
I've never lived in a place where Porcupines were common, so I learned a lot about them even with some quick perusing of facts. Here are a few tidbits:
- "Porcupine" comes from "porcus" for "pig" and "spina" for spine, so it basically means "spiny pig" (from Wikipedia)
- Porcupines are the second largest rodent in North America
- An individual Porcupine has about 30,000 quills!
- I mentioned that Porcupines have low reproductive potential. They mate in the fall (October/November). They have a long gestation period = about 210 days (7 months). Females generally give birth to only 1 offspring (in April/May). The young Porcupine is nursed for ~127 days (4 months), and then becomes independent at about 5 months. They don't become sexually mature until they're about 2 years (females) or 2.5 years (males) old.
If you're interested in learning more about Porcupines, I found this page from the Animal Diversity Web to be very well done.
And here's one more fun fact. I wondered whether Porcupines were in Sonoma County...and how close they came to Bodega Head. After a little searching on the Internet, I found a video that Gordon posted of a Porcupine sighting at the Austin Creek State Recreation Area. You can see that video here:
Nicely done, Gordon!
If you've observed Porcupines locally, I'd be interested in hearing more about it.