Baker City, Ore., can have one more porcupine race
After considering all the points of a prickly issue, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has decided to let Baker City hold a porcupine race at its annual Miner's Jubilee one last time. The race, which involves about 50 porcupines rounded up from nearby fields and forests by 4-H clubs, has had animal protectionists bristling for years. At a hearing last week, activists persuaded the commission that the porcupines were being chased, molested and "worried" for human amusement. Such behavior is considered wildlife harassment, which is illegal in Oregon. But in consideration of the money and effort already spent promoting the race, the commission is allowing one final derby, to be held at this year's jubilee in July.
The race takes place at the high school football stadium and draws about 3,000 spectators, which is better attendance than the football team enjoys. There are several heats of five or six porcupines each, followed by a showdown of the top six qualifiers. During the races, a porcupine "jockey" trails each quilled rodent, encouraging it by swatting the ground with a broom. Race rules—and common sense—prohibit touching the animal.
Despite their poky reputation, porcupines "can really move," according to meet director Suzan Jones. Indeed, a really worried porcupine can tear along at nearly 4 mph. The "world record" for the 50-foot Baker City course is 10.5 seconds, set by Porky's Revenge in 1986. That mark, unless it's broken this year, may stand for eternity.
Not that it will help their case, but porcupine racers can claim a literary precedent. In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, hedgehogs—a.k.a. porcupines—were used as croquet balls. Now that was wildlife harassment.
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