ManinMarche Image
03/09/2011 - 13:53

Last night i had an encouter with a couple of porcospina travelling together along the country road that leads to our house. Is stopped with them in my headlights and got out to observe them. They seemed unconcerned and continued on their way until wandered out of the headlights beam and into the darnkness. Has anyone else had any close encounters with them I've heard they can charge in attack. In Oz i've been known to handle the echindna similar to a Uk hedgehog but these  look a lot more spiny and dangerous, not that i am keen to pick one up. This is the second encounter the first was some months back and only a solitary one travelling along a nearby road. Are they as common as the fox, are they in most parts of Italy or your region and do they have any kind of behaviour that would classify it as a pest eating vege gardens etc?      



We often used to come across porcupines (aka istrice) but unfortunately we saw more dead at the side of the road than alive. We saw them singly, in pairs and in groups of 3 or 4, presumably a family. On one occasion we startled  a couple as they were crossing a road and their spines were instantly raised - neither made to charge, they both held their ground, but the transformation was incredible making them look twice the size, and you certainly got the impression they were not to be approached unless you wanted to end up like a pincushion! I think they do raid the veggy patch and I seem to remember someone on the forum had a problem with them making off with dogs' toys left in the garden! We were in Le Marche, how extensively they are to be found I don't know but they were certainly a regular feature of the childrens' Italian textbooks when in primary school.

I do so hate these creatures - beautiful as they are - if you get up close they have little pink feet exactly like a human toddler! They are a complete nightmare if they take up residence in a spot which you are trying to garden - when they get really hungry they even tackle spiny agaves, and you can forget spuds or daffodils (which I always thought were poisonous, but clearly not to istrici.) It can be fun getting shot at by a male out on the prowl for a lady friend, but only if you are behind a nice laminated windscreen. One night we were crawling along a rutted track in the car, and boyo porcupine decided we were a rival. So, facing the car, he raised all his big projectile spines (they raise them almost 180degrees for attack mode, so they fire forward) and let fly. He ruined a windscreen wiper and disturbed the windscreen seal.... I think they are fairly widespread in central Italy (maybe all over the country) and they like cultivated land so long as there is a bit of bosco around for cover.

Interesting, our neighbours, translate that as being a hedgehog,but porcupine a different beast, so amazing, saw one going down our road one dark night,a privilege, sadly did not want to come and visit us, and has not been muching on ours or neighbours ortos, perhaps he took exception to you Fillide?.

I agree, yer porcospino is a hedgehog, also commonly called un riccio, but yer istrice is a porcupine! Shows how useful Latin nomenclature is. And why do the Italians (and almost every other language) speak of coccodrilli, whereas us Brits call them crocodiles! In that case I think the English got it wrong...

In many dictionaries they list both 'porcospino' and 'istrice' as the translation for porcupine with 'riccio' being a hedgehog.  Outside the dictionary we never came across 'porcospino', to our neighbours and friends a porcupine was always an istrice and a hedgehog always a riccio - as in the all the childrens' schoolbooks, when both were common features especially when the exercise was to break the word down into syllables!  As Maninmarche queried the possibility of their charging I assumed he was referring to a porcupine rather than a hedgehog!

We have not actually met a porcupine but found a spine from one on the road by our house.  No problems with vegetable garden being devoured (other than the lizzards eating the strawberries last year!).  We hope to one day see the actual creature as we really enjoy witnessing the local wild life.  We have deer, badger (the cutest badger young were wandering along the road back in January), Golden Eagle, fox, mink, that we have seen and hoof prints that look like boar occasionally appear.  I suspect from the noises at night there is much more out there that we have yet to meet.  We live at Ripatransone, Marche.

We came across a family of 5 when returning one evening to our house - amazing to see.They seem to be mainly nocturnal creatures but I didn't know they shot at you! What I find most odd is the fact that outside Africa ( I believe) they can only be found in Italy! I am guessing the Romans introduced them to the country but I find it odd they didnt spread into other countries.Would be fascinated to know the story..!

It is common held belief that Porcupines can Project or fire their Quills...they cannot. The quills will fall out on contact with a predator or lodge in it, but the animal has no mechanism to allow these to be projected. The only way they can appear to be projected at an object is when they shake themselves and some are dislodged. This is fact ( studied these Rodents for a thesis)

Do prevent your dog from snuffling around after these critters as they will he up with very nasty quills in the face. I have seen this and goodness knows how you get them out, also friend's dog blinded in one eye.

How exciting!  I have never seen one of these alive: we are down in Campofilone so it may be too densely populated for them to feel comfortable.  Man in Marche, where did you see these spiky beasts? I saw two wild boars in Umbria last month, near Umbertide as well as a badger on the same road.  Sadly they were not playing together.  Boars cause huge damage in the fields around the property at Umbertide and we have had to put up electric barriers but they still get in from time to time I find it amazing how the wildlife in Italy has thrived.  20 years ago there were so few birds and now at Campofilone we see Kites, falcons, Montagues' Harrier, Golden Oriel, Nightingale and woodpeckers F  

I agree TheItalianLife, life here AND the wildlife here is great, (not sure about the scorpions, grass snakes and vipers !!). All is well, as this year we have seen a 'pack' (?) of 6 cinghiale ambling in the fields 20 metres below our house, and we regularly see deer (not sure what type they are - white/cream stripe across their bums ?) and much less regularly porcupines. Havn't seen any fireflies yet? A few days ago I was having a cuppa on a bench that we have in the garden and heard this (sort of) barking type of noise behind me.............nervously looking around ...........it was a big deer 30 metres away, leaping through the grasses 'roaring' as it went............ Wow! Also, one of the birds that we get here (Le Marche)is the Hoopoe............what a beauty!!! S

In reply to by sprostoni

yes, despite illeagal hunting there are plenty of Roebuck around they're the small brown "deer" with white bums.The istrici which the regional government brought in to repopulate them seem to prosper on our and neighbouring cultivations to the point that i know quite a few people who have shot and eaten them.... it's too early for fire flies and certainly too cold at the moment they are usually found in june with the ripening grain but die off after the harvest there are a lot of migratory birds around at the moment like the pairs of little tortorelle (they look like tiny pigeons) and like to fuff around in the middle of quiet roads, the "lupopa" is also back a strange cockatoo looking bird with a crest on it's head. two years ago the regional government helicoptered here baskets of vipers (for repopulation!?) i hope they threw a few into their Ancona gardens too!

In reply to by sprostoni

Do you know, i have been coming to le march since i was a baby in the 60's and i saw these for the first time last June (as said by the next poster). I honestly thought that some fool had put LED lights into the bushes up to the house: Magical!

In reply to by TheItalianLife

With the greatest respect, we DEFINITELY see fireflies here (Penna San Giovanni) in May, certainly for the last three years we have, we usually have a few friends around here in the second week of May and they are all delighted to see them. I LOVE the idea that someone thought they were LED lights in the bushes HA!!! S 

We are at 399 metres (yes!!), but not seen any fireflies yet this year, but I suspect the improvement in the weather will bring them out. I am VERY envious of the Storks in the sky..............wow...................any babies due ? (Ha!) S

In reply to by sprostoni

Hello Sprostoni   Here in Switzerland we have a lot of Storks nesting in the trees behind our house. because we overlook the zoo we have other exotics to watch but the storks are extraordinary:  They make a clacking noise with their beaks as a part of their mating communications. They fly like pteradactyls! Our neighbours can see into the nest but from our place i have not seen babies (storklets) yet

Hello TheItalianLife Your comment "They fly like pteradactyls!" made me smile as I did actually comment to my husband at the time that the sight was "very Jurassic Park". Hello Sprostoni No babies due here - and certainly not 7!! 

We ate porcupine in a trattoria near Colleferro (Rome) once, although our host told us it was illegal. The meat was very dark, a bit tough but we didn't need to ask for a toothpick....

We had a close encounter with one last year when we were returning to our apartment in Ripalvella, it was in the middle of the road on a blind bend and we missed it by inches.  Last week we saw another foraging by the roadside and it casually looked up then continued whatever it was doing.  On our last day there last week I had to drive down to Marsciano and there was one dead in the road.  When I returned it had been moved, now I know they are edible I have to assume someone claimed it as road kill. As for other creatures we have had wild boars jump from the roadside and cross our path (very scary), a very scraggy fox in the borgo and a young deer appearing from a steep ravine next to the apartment and trotting off to the fields next door.

Never in nearly five years have we seen a porcupine here in the hills below the Gran Sasso (550 m.s.l.m.) and we've yet to see a Hoopoe (the "cockatoo looking bird with a crest on it's head" mentioned by Sebastiano above). We do get fireflies, but they've yet to put in an appearance this year. The boar, however, are here in vast numbers. Our house is in a no-hunting zone and the buggers seem to understand they're in no danger around our place. We hadn't seen much of them over the winter, then, a couple week ago, we looked out the window and counted 30 rooting around in the wooded area near the house, some no more than five metres from the house. Once we did a count, we opened the window, clapped hands and shouted to move them on and stop their rooting about. When we looked the next day, we were amazed at the size of rocks they had dug up out of the hillside on their search for... what? acorns? truffles? grubs? No idea. We're not terribly fussy about our garden, but they do make a mess even when they visit in small family groups. Huge mobs are just a total pain. I do wonder what's going on with the population management of these things. Their numbers do seem to wax and wane quite drastically from year to year. Al

We have lots of fireflies around here on a good night, but I've only ever spotted one glow worm. It's entirely possible that this is because I've just not been out looking in the right places at the right time. The one I did see was on a gravel area at the bottom of the house wall, but I have no idea what that says about their preferred display area. I managed to pick the creature up and bring it into the light for a closer look; it was a very odd looking thing. The glow was interesting, too, in that it was constant rather than blinking like the fireflies. Al