Over the past year, staff has encountered a number of porcupines hit by cars on our busy highways. Unfortunately for this interesting animal, porcupines come out at night and seek the salt residue on roads, leaving them very vulnerable to passing vehicles. In the majority of cases, these animals have been too damaged to help and have been humanely euthanized to end their pain.
On the mend.
This porcupine, hit by a car, is on a better road now – the road to recovery.
Just this past weekend a man from Novar brought in a porcupine that had been hit by a car on Highway 592. Staff did an examination and much to their surprise, determined that this particular animal did not appear to be badly injured, and has now been kept for observation for a few days. Staff did an examination and much to their surprise, determined that this particular animal did not appear to be badly injured, but as a precaution she was taken to our veterinarian. Dr. Garner examined her closely and x-rayed her to be certain that there were no internal injuries. Much to everyone’s surprise, she did find two badly infected bite wounds on its legs. Apparently, the porcupine, named “Monkey” by the vet techs, had had an encounter with a predator at some previous point in time.
The slow-moving porcupines are nocturnal vegetarians, eating the inner bark of trees as well as foliage, twigs, bark, leaves, buds, fruits, berries and nuts. They don’t see well and prefer to climb trees to escape predators, gripping with powerful, curved claws. They may even stay in the same tree for days.
If all else fails, they use their quills for defence, turning their back to the predator. Contrary to belief, they cannot shoot their quills, which are loosely attached. If attacked, a porcupine will slap the attacker with its tail, leaving a trail of quills in the face or body. They sometimes impale one another and themselves on occasion, so their quills are naturally antiseptic and rarely fester. They are excellent swimmers, as are their rodent relative, the beaver.
Because of their propensity for eating and destroying trees, porcupines have been considered a “nuisance” animal in many parts of North America. The weasel known as a fisher has been introduced in these areas to regulate the porcupine population, as fishers are one of the very few predators that will take on a porcupine.
Their method of attack is to bite the face of the porcupine over and over until the animal tires, and then flip it over on its back to expose the soft underbelly. It is said that a meal from one porcupine will feed a fisher for a month, so it would appear that the fisher’s tenacity pays off. Unfortunately, the fisher also enjoys many other species as well, and according to research, the introduction of fishers into certain areas has upset the balance of diversity.
Monkey (she got her name because the vet techs thought that her scream resembled a monkey’s vocalization) is one lucky porcupine, not only to have escaped a predator attack, but also a car accident. Staff members have high hopes for the recovery of this particular porcupine, and after Monkey’s treatment with antibiotics for the next week and a half, we are anticipating being able to release her back to the wild, far away from a busy highway. Hopefully she will manage to ward off any predator attacks in future and live a long life.
(These weekly articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)