Sunday, 18 January 2009

Italian porcupines

A quick trip to the local farmer for an intensive course on porcupines.

In Italian they are known as istrice and are widespread throughout the region. The local variety are about 2 feet long and weigh in around 30 lbs and live in large networks of burrows. They don't hibernate and have a couple of litters every year. They come out at night and by first light are scurrying back to their burrows after an evenings foraging . They simply adore to eat bulbs and will burrow down a foot to eighteen inches under a fence to get at them - so much for any hope of daffodils or tulips in the garden here. They will usually amble off when they see humans but can be a danger to dogs as they can charge backwards attempting to spear their canine challenger with their quils.

The local farmer says that last year after picking his 30 walnut trees he left the walnuts out overnight in a large pile and the next morning they had all gone - devoured en masse by the istrice. If he's right there must either be one heck of a lot of them or they are absolute gluttons. He also said that you are more likely to hear their grunts than see them - such is the in depth knowledge of the locals imparted to 'we' foreigners. The offer to come down at dawn and shoot them has been politely declined - I think that we and the istrice will get on just fine now that I know not to plant out too many tasty morsels.

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