Stuck on Porcupines: Case in Point

The New Paltz community learned a thing or two about the Hudson Valley’s prickly porcupine friends last Thursday.

On Feb. 16, Head Zookeeper at Trailsides Museum and Zoo at Bear Mountain State Park Melissa Gillmer gave a lecture titled “Porcupines in Our Presence” at SUNY New Paltz  in Lecture Center 102.

Sponsored by Minnewaska State Park as part of their Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership (SRBP) Lecture Series, this event focused on the not-so-talked-about porcupine, giving insight into many aspects of their being such as adaptation, predators and way of survival. Fanny, a beloved porcupine at the zoo, also made an appearance that captivated the audience’s attention. 

Gillmer touched upon many interesting facts of porcupine life with a charismatic demeanor and several anecdotes on her life at the zoo. These bristly creatures are nocturnal, strict herbivores, decent swimmers, have padded feet to climb trees and have two front teeth that continuously grow. Here in North America, porcupines tend to reside in coniferous forests and eat the inner bark of trees during these cold winter months.

On the stranger side, after two male porcupines fight for the female, the winner urinates on the female so that she knows to move her tail aside for mating. Gillmer humorously noted that a porcupine has indeed urinated on her, which was perhaps the oddest animal interaction that has happened to her so far. 

Gilmner noted that the best part of her job involves the animal interaction.

“Forming connective bonds with them is great,” she said.

The bond she shares with animals was apparent when she interacted with Fanny the porcupine. After working with Fanny for 13 years, Gillmer wanted to learn more about the species and this Lecture Series paved the way for her to expose people to porcupines. 

Co-sponsored by the biology department, the aim of the SRBP partnership is “to help promote and support biodiversity,” according to the Mohonk Preserve webpage. 

By speaking to colleges and teaching the community about these animals, people can have more direct access and interaction with these inhabitants of the New York State region. This allows the public to appreciate their presence and learn that each animal, even the porcupine, is essential to this ecosystem.

“The presentations in the SRBP Lecture Series help promote understanding of the importance of the interconnectivity of all species, including humans, in the Shawangunk Mountains region,” said Glenn Hoagland, president and chief executive officer at Mohonk Preserve.