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Puzzling Prickly Prints

Atop Aspen Mountain I was waiting for guests to join me on a tour. One o’clock passed and no one arrived except a fellow Naturalist, Robin. Instead of taking Robin on a tour that she also leads, we decided to just walk the trail and enjoy the day.  As we walked away from the hustle and bustle of the ski hill we started through the forest. It had just snowed the day before, so the snow was gleaming and untouched. As we walked up a nice hill tracks crossed our paths, I hadn’t seen anything like them before. And with a few seconds of thoughts, I yelled out in excitement, “porcupine tracks, porcupine tracks”! These are probably the coolest tracks I have seen yet. I like to think of a porcupine track like a broom, they waddle along, leaning from one side to the other, dragging their feet and quills as they sweep across the snow. We were both so excited we decided we had to find the prickly fellow.

At first we thought he couldn’t have gone far, maybe just in the tree a few yards away, but it turns out our prickly friend must have been on a mission of his own. We followed his tracks across the snowmobile tracks of Richmond Ridge Road and up a mighty steep, but small, hill. He traveled across our snowshoe trail, once again, and down the hill towards Little Annies Road. We tracked him for quite a ways but then decided he was heading all the way down the hill, a trek we were not equipped for. So after cutting through the fresh snow, and chasing down our unseen porcupine we had to abandon our mission and accept that he was somewhere in the trees, eating away at the bark of a spruce tree. But I have hope that I will run into, hopefully not literally, one soon. One has been spotted on Elk Camp on Snowmass Mountain, so hopefully I will get to see an active prickly porcupine before the winter is over!

~ Lindsay Gurley