My name is Prickly.
Glad to make your acquaintance.
People throughout the ages have mistaken me for a pig, with spines attached, as my name, in several languages, attests. In German, it is “Stachelschwein” (Schwein = pig, Stachel = spine/quill), in French “porc-épic” (porc = pig, épic = spine/quill), and my English common name, porcupine, is thought to be derived from French.
I am here to tell you that I am not a pig, but a rodent! My scientific name, Erethizon dorsatum, is more ominous than quill-pig, as it translates into “one who rises in anger,” or “one with an irritating back.” Let me put one thing straight. I am NOT one who angers easily, but when provoked or threatened, I might lash out at you with my tail. My quills, though entirely soft and pliable when I am born, harden within thirty minutes of my beholding the light of the world. They are only loosely attached to me, but when slapped onto your skin, will embed themselves with the help of tiny barbs – a painful ordeal.
I did not think this up, so please, don’t blame me! But – if you or your canine companion corner me, I have no choice but to deploy this weapon.
If left alone – and I prefer to be solitary most of my life – I am busy eating my vegetables (my mother would be proud of me): fresh greens in summer, dry bark in winter. As a matter of convenience, my grocery store and bedroom are often identical. You might call me lazy, because I move very slowly, but I get ample exercise climbing up and down trees.
As I am nocturnal, I am active mostly at night, so you might not spot me often. I suspect that you notice me predominantly during the day, when I rest from the night’s labors. Since I am a good climber, and not afraid of heights, I often seek shelter high up on a branch, where you might see me snoozing. One so handsome as I needs plenty of beauty sleep.
I prefer to stay out of your way, so PLEASE stay out of mine, and admire my impossibly cute face from afar.
Dedicated to our pooch, who did not get Prickly’s memo, and who once suffered the consequences of his spiny encounter. RIP, Teddy, and stay away from those barbed beings in doggie heaven.