The Quill Pig aka North American Porcupine

I spot a North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) and all I have is low light. So what do I do? I focus on the Porcupine and start clicking away thinking that maybe a few images will turn out sharp and desperately hoping that I don’t get stuck with just soft ones. At first I thought it was a skunk because of the light quills and dark fur.

North American Porcupine on the shore of the Great Salt LakeNorth American Porcupine on the shore of the Great Salt Lake – Nikon D300, handheld, f6.3, 1/50, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 200mm, natural light

Porcupine images have been elusive for me, I nearly cried one morning when I spotted one up on a rock out in the open and I couldn’t get to it fast enough to get the images of it I “saw” in my head.

When I saw this one a few days ago I hopped out of the truck with my camera and tried to handhold the 200-400mm VR to get sharp images of it at a shutter speed of 1/50. Only a very few of those turned out because the animal kept moving. Some were ruined by the Brine Flies flying past the Porcupine which caused odd, streaky blurs in front of its face.

I can’t figure out why a Porcupine was walking along the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake as there certainly wasn’t anything in its diet there.

Close up of a North American PorcupineClose up of a North American Porcupine – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/50, ISO 640, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 200mm, natural light

Then I got back into the truck and rested my lens on my Noodle to take some images that might be sharper because they weren’t handheld. I still only got a shutter speed of 1/50 but a little more of the images were sharp. The Porcupine was too close most of the time to do anything other than take portraits of it.

You can see some of the Brine Flies on the Porcupine’s fur in the upper left side of the frame.

The Quill Pig ~ North American PorcupineThe Quill Pig ~ North American Porcupine – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/50, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 200mm, natural light

The Porcupine finally moved far enough away so that I could fit it and all of its quills into the frame. I’m not completely happy with these images because of the low light but they will do for now.

Some day I won’t get stuck with low light while photographing these amazing critters.

Mia

See what happens when a Moose kisses a Porcupine here.

PS: Their nickname “Quill Pig” came from Middle French porc d’épine which translates to “thorny pork”.

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