Alaska Science Forum: The porcupine’s winter in slow-motion

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By Ned Rozell

While running through Bicentennial Park in Anchorage, biologist Jessy Coltrane spotted a porcupine in a birch tree. On her runs on days following, she saw it again and again, in good weather and bad. Over time, she knew which Alaska creature she wanted to study.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, how does he do it? How does this animal make it through winter?’” Coltrane said years ago during the December defense of her doctoral thesis in Fairbanks. “It would be 20 below out and he’s there eating (bark).”

Coltrane’s study cast some midwinter light on the Alaska porcupine, perhaps the least-studied mammal in the state. She

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