May 28, 2014 —
While walking with some friends last weekend, I heard a familiar bark. Tucker, my friend’s labradoodle, was with us and had evidently found something in the woods. I went to check it out, and on arrival to the scene of the barking, I found Tucker had corralled a small porcupine on to a small log. Tucker had already had two separate encounters with porcupines before that required “de-quilling” of his muzzle, and now he was trying for engagement number three. He must have learned something from his past experiences, because I was able to call him off. A closer look at the porcupine revealed that it was only about 10 inches long, this year’s “pup,” and not more than a month old.
Nature times the emergence of young mammals with the arrival of spring, when food becomes more plentiful. Some mammals, such as the porcupine, are born in the spring, while others, like the black bear, are born during mid-winter and nurse in the den till early spring, when mother and cubs emerge.
Young furry critters can be fun to watch as they learn about the habitat and engage in play behavior with siblings or adults. They can be clumsy and have no experience with roads or vehicles, so keep an extra eye out when driving during spring. A black bear with cubs should be given some room; the female is protective of her young. Young or old mammals of any type in the wild can carry rabies, so you shouldn’t try to handle any youngsters that you happen to get close to.
Seemingly orphaned young are likely just being themselves as they interface with their surrounding environment. If you find an animal that is obviously injured, you can contact a state wildlife agency or find a wildlife rehabilitator. For NY state, a list can be found at www.nyswrc.org/rehabbers.html  and for PA, check pawr.com.