Listen up!! It’s that time of year again and with Spring approaching, we are all excited to get back outside. As all of you outdoor enthusiasts know, Spring also means that porcupine season will soon be in full swing. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to yet encounter a porcupine, we would like to give you some basic facts on these prickly creatures and what you can do to avoid the dreaded “quilled” pet.
Porcupines are generally found around fir, hemlock, aspen and pine trees. They make a meal by stripping the bark of these trees and feasting on the tender tissue below. Porcupines are nocturnal and prefer to forage in the evening. By day, they can be found resting in hollow trees, logs and crevices in rocky bluffs or underground in burrows. Even at rest, they are loaded with an arsenal of weapons that can strike at any time.
Often our furry family members are “quilled” because the porcupine is reacting to being threatened by another animal. This is their defense mechanism and it is a very effective one indeed!!! Most pets do not ever get close enough to try to take a nibble. The aftermath is often quite shocking for owners as seeing their pet come out of the bush resembling a pin cushion is not an everyday occurrence. Many owners cannot believe how many quills can be embedded that quickly as we often hear owners say, “it was over in an instant.”
Many people think that porcupines throw their quills but this is actually a myth. When threatened, they turn their hind end to the potential attacker and swing their tail to make contact, detaching the quills and embedding them into the skin. We often see these weapons embedded in the muzzle, face, neck and throat but they are not in any way limited to these areas. We have seen them everywhere from nose to tail!! The quills are also equipped with their own defense mechanism. They have tiny one-way barbs along the shaft which makes them difficult to remove without proper veterinary care. Also, once the quills are embedded, they will keep moving inward migrating through the skin and can potentially make their way through muscle and into vital organs. Our simple suggestions to avoid this kind of encounter are to take note of the time of day you are going into the bush and also take note of your surroundings. If you happen to see trees that are missing bark, you may very well be in porcupine territory.
If your pet ends up on the “butt” end of a porcupine, seek immediate veterinary care. Do not try to remove or cut the quills yourself as broken and cut quills can migrate and are harder to locate. Cutting the quills to let the air out is another myth and makes them more difficult to remove. Trying to keep your pet and yourself as calm as possible is key until you can reach a veterinarian. Try to not allow your pet to paw at the area that has been “quilled.” We do not recommend trying to remove the quills on your own. You may not be able to remove them all and one embedded quill can cause issues both medically and financially down the road.