Working as a horticulturist at a wildlife park comes with all kinds of job duties, some a little more unusual than others. Northwest Trek’s lead horticulturist Jake Pool plants hundreds of trees a year inside the park, monitors the health of all the trees for the safety of the animals and guests, and helps design animal habitats (like using a fallen tree and turning it into a climbing log for the raccoons). And, sometimes he picks plants for the park’s porcupine.
Recently, Pool collected a variety of plants and flowers from the park’s grounds for Thistle the porcupine. Pool found big leaf maple flowers, false Solomon’s seal flowers, red flowering currant, yellow pond lily flowers, evergreen huckleberry and orange honeysuckle. And boy, did Thistle devour his food!
“Those are all native plants to the Pacific Northwest,” said Pool. “Porcupines would naturally forage on them in the wild.”
Porcupines are generalists, meaning they eat a wide range of plants. In the winter, they eat evergreen needles and the inner bark of trees and in the spring and summer, they eat anything from berries and seeds to flowers and grasses.
“I really enjoy this time of the year when there’s an abundance of plants and flowers I can forage for the animals,” said Pool.
Of course, living in a wildlife park, Thistle always has a variety of food available to him, like browse and tree bark, and he’s often treated to his favorite food: corn on the cob.