Monday Mischief 19: Moses Meets a Porcupine

After recounting a traumatizing tale at Nose Hill Park for you last week, I thought maybe Moses and I should revisit the scene of the crime. It is a super huge, nice park with a great off-leash area and lots of trails to follow, after all.

A photo of Calgary Commander Hadfield took when in command of the International Space Station (ISS). So cool. That massive dark spot in the NW is Nose Hill Park.

A photo of Calgary Commander Hadfield took when in command of the International Space Station (ISS). So cool. That massive dark spot in the NW is Nose Hill Park.

So off we went.

Moses at Nose Hill

Moses at Nose Hill

I really do like Nose Hill Park. It’s multi-use, which can be a recipe for conflict when you have runners, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, cyclists, families, and dog owners all sharing the same space. But the off-leash areas are well-marked (both for when you’re entering and leaving them), and there are several paths that guarantee running into others is a rarity.

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The thing about having 11km² of parkland in the city (1129 hectares; 4.2 mi²) is that it’s also a great place for wildlife. We’ve seen lots of birds, deer, and heard coyotes howling, and have heard tonnes of stories of porcupine encounters at the park.

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Until recently, however, neither Moses nor Alma had met a porcupine.

Now, before I go any further, there’s an acknowledgement and disclosure I must make as a fallible dog owner: I did not re-leash Moses the second I knew there was a porcupine in the area. I most certainly should have, and had even had the opportunity to, but the fact that I did not, I suppose, shows that my natural cynicism does give way to optimism from time to time.

But I did not, and thus mischief ensued.

Just a crappy iPhone pano shot, but it really displays the Chinook arches we're so fond of seeing in Calgary during the winter.

Just a crappy iPhone pano shot, but it really displays the Chinook arches we’re so fond of seeing in Calgary during the winter.

We were starting to turn back towards the parking lot when Moses and I came across another dog walker and her two dogs on the path. One of her dogs had noticed a porcupine in a small tree nearby, but the dogs were all busy greeting one another and the porcupine remained still and out of reach. Moses was oblivious.

Oblivious… right up until he wasn’t.

Unbeknownst to me, while we were socializing, the porcupine decided to abandon his perch and sought a new, higher one in a thick clump of trees nearby.

I did not notice this development, but Moses did.

So Moses immediately galloped off to make a new friend.

To the porcupine’s credit, he was fast and did not let the interest of a giant canine in pursuit distress him. He had a destination, and he just kept on truckin’.

And to the porcupine’s good fortune, the snow was incredibly deep.

I know this because as soon as Moses took off, I shouted profanities took off after him, and soon found myself wading through snow higher than my knees. Luckily, having half as many legs to navigate through the snow as Mo does means I was able to gain on him, even despite stumbling; snow down the back of my jeans was the least of my worries.

The trees were very thick and the porcupine had some good cover as the frantic parade approached.

By the time I caught up, Moses was struggling in the trees and deep slow to greet the fleeing porcupine.  The chance of dozens of quills in Mo’s muzzle seemed a near guarantee. Where Moses ended and porcupine began, I couldn’t immediately determine.

I could see the porcupine had a deficit of quills in its tail and backside (the result of another curious canine, perhaps?), and I could hear Moses sniffing and see him straining to keep up the retreating animal, who just stayed his course, refusing to acknowledge the chaos behind him.

Moses was persistent, so in order to prevent any further escalation of the situation, I grabbed the best handle I could find: poor Mo’s tail. Moses yelp-barked (yarked?) in protest and looked back at me, giving me the opportunity to grab his collar and guide him back through the deep snow, leaving the porcupine in peace to find safety in a new tree.

The porcupine on his perch

The porcupine on his perch

I leashed Moses back up and rejoined the amused spectator on the path with her two dogs, where my examination of Moses confirmed the porcupine kept all his quills on his own body.

Our audience’s laughter was constant in the background during the whole ordeal, and rightfully so. I’m sure the whole thing looked ridiculous. I relayed the story to the Husband who said it was a shame there was no video of it – we could put it in black and white, speed it up, and put it to circus music,  à la Charlie Chaplin.

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I always had a dangerous curiosity about what Moses might do in a situation like that, so at least now that has been sated. As expected (remind me to tell you a mouse story in the future), Moses just wants to meet the other animal. Be friends. Even if the animal doesn’t want to be friends; Moses just has an inquisitive and harmless nature.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t actively prevent any future Moses/porcupine greetings in the future. I got lucky this time.

Moses, pretty content with himself and his mischief at the park

Moses, pretty content with himself and his mischief at the park

When it comes to dog/porcupine interactions, I’m generally going to be more concerned about the porcupine. A few quills may have resulted in discomfort for Mo and a veterinary bill for me, but the consequences for the porcupine are greater.

And had things gone differently, I would’ve been making sure two animals got care: Moses to the vet, and the porcupine to the wildlife centre (related: see this quarter’s Blog the Change post on local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation).

So that’s what I’m going to leave you with: I know in the moment your own dog will be your concern, but don’t forget about the porcupine. They’re docile, adorable animals and it’s not their fault our dumb dogs are off-leash. If the porcupine is injured, keep an eye on it and call the local wildlife centre so they can get a volunteer out to help.

This post is part of the Mischief Monday blog hop – to see what everyone else has been up to, click herehere, or here.

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BtC4A: Local Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation

It’s that time again!

The first Blog the Change for Animals for 2014 is here, and you can visit the BTC website and read the other posts by other bloggers by clicking here.

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All of my previous Blog the Change posts have been about companion animal rescue efforts or campaigns, which makes a lot of sense for a dog blogger. And, of course, these are always extremely worthy recipients of donations, awareness, and volunteer efforts.

For this instalment, however, I’d like to change the focus.

Say your cat gets a hold of a bird in the yard. Say your dog goes after a porcupine or rabbit or skunk at the off-leash park. What if, after investigating a loud thud against the window, you find a dazed bird? What happens if a fawn is orphaned by poachers or some young goslings are orphaned by traffic? What if a family of foxes decide under your deck is their new home?

AIWC mule deer fawn

A mule deer fawn rescued during Calgary’s June 2013 floods

You might know to take your pets to the vet after wildlife encounters or even know pet first aid, but what about the other party to those situations – the wildlife? Do you know what to do with them?

Chances are there’s a wildlife hospital operating in your area for these very reasons: to help sick and injured wildlife as a result of human interaction.

Just north of Calgary you will find the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (www.aiwc.ca).

AIWC patients: Great horned owls

AIWC patients (and our provincial bird): Great horned owls

AIWC was founded in 1993 and is an ABVMA-certified wildlife hospital and trauma centre. AIWC treats and rehabilitates native wildlife injured or orphaned as a result of interactions with people.

AIWC operates in conjunction with Alberta Fish & Wildlife, the City of Calgary, and several local veterinary clinics who take after-hours patients until they can make their way to the centre.

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Adorable AIWC patient: porcupine

In addition to providing care and treatment, AIWC is also a resource for information – found a bird in your yard unable to fly and not sure whether it needs intervention or is just a baby fledgling bird? You can call them and they can help out over the phone or send a rescue driver your way.

And if you’d like them to attend your school, community group, or event and present and educate on local wildlife, they do that, too (and have education ambassadors to bring along with them!).

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AIWC patient: Nighthawk

AIWC also provides Wildlife Conflict Solutions, providing a humane, non-lethal, and permanent solution to resolve conflicts you may be experiencing with wildlife on your property.

AIWC bohemian waxwing

Bohemian waxwing

AIWC isn’t the only wildlife centre operating in the area, either.

In southern Alberta, there is also the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, the Cochrane Ecological Institute, and the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation, among others.

If you’re in Edmonton, there is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton.

Vancouver? See the Wildlife Rescue Association in Burnaby.

Saskatoon? Check out the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan.

Manitoba? There’s the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

Toronto? Try the Toronto Wildlife Centre.

New Brunswick? Contact the Atlantic Wildlife Institute.

More AIWC patients: A broad-winged hawk; a saw-whet owl; and a red-tailed hawk

More AIWC patients: A broad-winged hawk, a saw-whet owl, and a red-tailed hawk

Those are just to name a few. There are centres like this operating all over the world to help local wildlife. Google [your location] + wildlife rescue and I’d be surprised if you didn’t get more than one nearby institution doing this important work.

Because it IS important.

The vast majority of patients at AIWC are birds. Here you have a magpie, an evening grosbeak, and a blue bird

The vast majority of patients at AIWC are birds. Here you have a magpie, an evening grosbeak, and a blue bird

These animals are often harmed or orphaned by no fault of their own or of natural circumstance, and the continual expansion of urban areas, agriculture development, and other industries make human-wildlife interactions inevitably more common.

Always Here

And it’s not just us; it’s our pets, too. Environment Canada reported in October 2013 that domestic cats are the number one killer of song birds – just another reason to keep those kitties indoors! (The Oatmeal also did this awesome infographic on just how much wildlife our cats kill.)

And we all know dogs with a keen interest in rabbits, porcupines, squirrels – you name it. Sometimes those dogs get lucky.

A young gosling, tundra swans, and a cormorant

A young gosling, tundra swans, and a cormorant

These wildlife centres run on donations and volunteer support to help mitigate some of that impact and give some of those animals a second chance.

Just like any other conservation effort, wildlife rehabilitation is good for everyone, maintaining as much of our natural ecosystems as possible.

Now for your mission:

Make note of the nearest wildlife rescue or hospital and their contact information. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but it might be useful one day.

Find them online and on social media. Like their pages and spread their information – if you don’t know much about them, chances are others don’t either.

And, if you’ve got time or resources to spare, see what they need and how you can give.

Like any charity or non-profit, wildlife institutes are sustained by funds, time and supplies graciously donated by their supporters. See what they’ve got for ongoing fundraising campaigns (animal adoptions make great gifts for those hard to buy for people in your life!) and supplies wish lists.

A beaver, a red squirrel, and a red fox - all 2013 AIWC patients

A beaver, a red squirrel, and a red fox – all 2013 AIWC patients

And if you’d like to see more adorable patient photos from the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation like the ones I’ve shared here, go like their Facebook page here. The person behind the camera for many of the photos there and the ones you’ve seen here may already be familiar to you ;).

Once you’ve completed your mission, go visit the Blog the Change for Animals blog hop and check out what everyone else is writing about.