In the Right Place: Sticky Business

Editor’s note: Brooklin author/photographer Richard J. Leighton creates the popular “In the Right Place” posts online about life and nature in Maine. He shares a post the second Thursday of each month in The Ellsworth American.

The former Washington, D.C., trial lawyer and his architect wife, Barbara, summered in Brooklin for more than 25 years before making it their permanent home in 2015. To see more of his work, visit

By Richard Leighton

It’s dinner time, but first we look out the window with a bit of anxiety to see if he’s back. He is! We’ve run him off three evenings in a row, but there he is again. We grab the broom and open the door loudly. He looks up and hunkers down into his Buddha pose, waiting to see what we’ll do.  He’s wild, but not fearful; he’s armed, but not aggressive. He’s a dilemma. He apparently thinks he’s our “Spiny Pig,” which is English for “Porcupine.”

We run at him shouting and waving the broom. He slowly gets on all fours and raises his quilled tail straight into the air — a defensive posture that reminds us not to get close. He turns and walks off in slow, waddling dignity. Perhaps he senses our profound weakness when he sees a broom instead of a rifle.

Porcupines can do considerable damage to trees and we’re not aware of any benefit that they confer on the world, except perhaps as a delicacy for large weasels. The state of Maine, a tree-conscious place, seems to be without much sympathy for porcupines. Under our regulations, porcupines are considered numerous and may be taken by licensed hunters in any way, at any time, in any number, except on Sundays or someone else’s posted property.

Nonetheless, there is the view that porcupines were here before property rights and are part of a complex natural system that we humans invaded and don’t fully understand. And, there is this: sometimes they’re cute. But, not often.

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