In March 2010, a diverse group of non-profit organizations, agencies and tribal governments submitted a letter to the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) requesting a meeting about the status of porcupines and beavers in the mid Klamath. Meetings of this beaver/porcupine group started in June 2010 and have been going full speed ahead every since. At this stage, the group is focusing on porcupines, which appear to be recovering less than beavers.
There is very little published information on porcupine population dynamics, especially in the mid Klamath. There is general consensus that porcupines are not as abundant as they used to be in the area, but no formal studies have been conducted. Formally, there was an aggressive, concerted effort to eradicate porcupines from the Klamath because they were damaging young conifer plantations. Porcupines are an important species to local tribal groups. Their quills are dyed yellow and used in baskets and on regalia. Porcupines also play a role in promoting oak woodlands, through their predation on young conifers and serve as an important food source for fishers, bobcats, and other predators.
Some of the goals of the porcupine working group are to further examine the current population in the area and determine if there is a need for active management of porcupines. One of the main objectives is to understand why populations of porcupines appear to be so low. The 7 month gestation period is almost as long as that of humans and only produces a single birth. This low reproduction rate is certainly related to the low population, but are there other factors? Even though concerted efforts to eradicate porcupines have stopped, is there still recreational killing? Is the habitat suitable?
In an effort to learn more about the porcupine population, the working group is developing a presence/absence survey to take place from the coast to east of Yreka, the Oregon border to Mendocino County. This survey involves securing salted wood blocks on trees and monitoring the blocks to see if porcupines have been gnawing on them. During the late spring and early months, porcupines have a strong need for salt to replenish sodium in their bodies. This is especially true of females because salt cravings are stimulated by pregnancy and lactation hormones.
If you would like to host a porcupine sampling station, please contact Luna Latimer at 530-627-3202 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to report a porcupine sighting, please contact Tim Burnett at 530-493-1721.
MKWC's porcupine surveys are currently unfunded. We are pursuing other sources of funding.