“Channeling Natty Bumppo” or, “Quill Gordon Knows Sh*t”

Fair Warning: There will be no replacing of letters with asterisks beyond this point! There are also three photos of interesting, strangely hairy poop in this post. Tolerant, indulgent readers who make it to the end will be rewarded with a few pretty pictures of ice.

Once, long ago, I sat in a tavern with some coworkers, sipping root beer and swapping stories. A man at the end of the bar to my right squinted at me and slurred, “Hey! You don’t know shit!”

This was unfortunate because if he had been seated to my left he would have seen the patch on my sleeve signifying employment at the local zoological park and indicating what was actually an intimate and far superior knowledge of shit. Not realizing what he was in for, he wiggled his index finger and taunted me once more. “You don’t know shit!” he exclaimed.

“As a matter of fact,” I began, hitching up my uniform pants as I stood, “I do know shit.” I then proceeded to recite every term for shit I could think of, from spoor and sign to crap and beyond. I told about finding peacock feathers in elephant shit and the defensive defecation of large pythons but I didn’t get a chance to expound on the eucalyptus-laced dung of koalas or the flung-poo antics of monkeys because the man at the bar staggered over and cut me off.

Actually, he cut off my air by punching me in the throat, but that is not the point. The point is that I am neither surprised nor particularly bothered when someone leaves a message on the answering machine telling me they found some very interesting, strangely hairy poop in the woods and that it was such interesting, strangely hairy poop that they felt compelled to carry a large sample of said poop to my porch, leaving it on an overturned bucket, cradled by a lichen-covered tree branch.

Feces of a fisher

There are those among us who would take one look at this strangely hairy poop and say, “Them’s Sasquatch turds, for sure,” but they would be wrong. The clue to the source of this poop is found in its contents.


Those are porcupine quills. The softer, hair-like quills that fringe(d) a porcupine’s belly, to be exact. This poop is fisher poop.


Natty Bumppo would be proud, I think.

[Daniel Day Lewis portrayed Natty Bumppo in the movie Last of the Mohicans but by that point in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales he (Natty Bumppo) was known as Hawkeye.]

The fisher (Martes pennanti) will eat just about anything it comes across, including porcupines. By concentrating its attack on the face, a fisher can weaken a porcupine enough to flip it onto its back, exposing the porcupine’s poorly protected belly. Fishers have also been known to force porcupines to the flimsy ends of tree branches so they fall to the ground and are killed or at least stunned and unable to fight. Fishers will also eat snowshoe hares, grouse, and turkeys, but you have to respect a critter that will take on and eat a porcupine.

I suppose a certain respect is also deserved for pooping porcupine quills.

And now, those pretty pictures I promised.

calm ice




Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on ““Channeling Natty Bumppo” or, “Quill Gordon Knows Sh*t”

  1. Marcia Haas

    Say, Quill, with a name like yours, are you sure that poop in the pail wasn’t your’n? If you walk up the road a piece you might find the rest of that passel of poop (and it was a LOT for a fisher!) if the New Jersey racers haven’t squashed it all down flat as a pancake.

    • I will take the blame for yellow on the snowbanks, but not for poop on the porch! Walked up the road this morning but only saw discarded coffee cups, but the trail camera is set up in a likely looking spot so maybe I’ll get some pictures.

      PS – When the urge strikes to leave things on the porch, cookies are fine.

  2. Speaking of your’n…but I digress. My wife a lady of the highest caliber, fancies herself a bit of a scatologist. That is all.

  3. People sometimes ask if I have a dog when they see the snowbanks in the dooryard. I point out that dogs can’t spell.

  4. I suppose a certain respect is also deserved for pooping porcupine quills.

    This is, perhaps, the most profound statement I’ve read in quite some time and requires some deep contemplation. I shall retire to the thinking room and do so. No post cogitation inspection is necessary, though, despite your expertise.

  5. People sometimes ask if I have a dog when they see the snowbanks in the dooryard. I point out that dogs can’t spell.

    Actually they can. We have to spell the word O-U-T and many others around our dog or suffer the consequences. I think the only reason they’re not out doing the same on the snowbanks is simply a matter of balance.

    • You could be right. I should have said that dogs lack the balance, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination to spell. The other thing I could say is that there ain’t no dog that tall.

  6. hookandhackle

    Jesus Quill you sure do have a Hawkeye for fisher cat stool. What else do you have an eye for?

    • Whatever is in front of me. This blog would be very, very different if I lived in Los Angeles or, heaven forbid, Connecticut 🙂 .

  7. I get the heaviest blog traffic for the tag of “fisher track in snow.” I can’t imagine how you’ll be inundated now for “fisher poop.” Wow. I’m envious.

  8. My son-in-law refers to me as “Pile”. Doesn’t have anything to do with your post here. Just thought I would share that he calls me “Pile” Hmnn………….

    • I’m sure he must mean “Pile of (something nice and endearing)” and shortens it for convenience or he’s just too shy to say it?

  9. Ouch. In so many ways, ouch.

    • I know, man. I haven’t looked closely but, even though those quills are lined up real nice, I’m pretty sure they’re not all pointing the same way.

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