Skip to main content


One day I got a phone call from a farmer who lived about two hours away.  He had a baby porcupine (a porcupette) but wouldn’t tell me much about it or how he had gotten it.  We try very hard not to take baby porcupines away from their mothers so we usually ask lots of questions, but something told me that I shouldn’t say much this time.  It was also a frustrating call because he didn’t want to bring it until the following day, and I worried about if it was being fed and what. The wrong food can be lethal to young babies and inexperienced handlers can easily choke a baby. We always ask that babies not be given anything, even water, by the rescuer. In this case it had no effect and he said he was fine.

I fretted all night.  The next day the man arrived.  He walked in with the tiniest porcupine I had ever seen sitting on his shoulder.  This is not how we like our patients to arrive. So very carefully I dug for the story, hoping to get the baby off his shoulder and to a safe place as quickly as I could. Eventually I got both the porcupette and the story.

He was a gentleman farmer, one who visited his land occasionally. He saw an adult porcupine climbing up one of ‘his’ trees.  He had a gun with him, and like so many people in our state he didn’t like the porcupine and ‘all the damage it was going to do’ so he shot it. He went to make sure she was really dead, turned her over with his foot, and realized that she was pregnant. That made him uncomfortable, so he took out his hunting knife and opened her up where he found a still living baby.  He tied off the umbilical cord with a thread from his jacket and took him home.

I don’t know why the baby lived.   I don’t really know how long the man had him as the umbilical cord was dried already.  I don’t know what he fed him or how often or how much.  I don’t know how he felt about what he had done. But I safely got the baby and the man left. He seemed like a nice man.

Every day porcupines are shot or run over purposely with cars by people who don’t understand them and don’t want to.  I love porcupines and have raised many, but this was the only one I ever got that shouldn’t have been born yet.  He grew and thrived. We had a rather tame female adult at the time, and he adopted her. Notice I didn’t say she adopted him.  I think she found him rather irritating but let him nurse, although she had no milk; let him follow her everywhere except when she had enough and climbed away from him (porcupettes can’t climb); taught him important stuff like how to eat an apple; and in the end he took her with him when he left. 

If you don’t appreciate porcupines, you are missing out on the supreme superhero of the wild world. They gently saunter through life not worrying about too much, not bothering anyone or anything that doesn’t bother them first.  But most other animals understand their spikey power and give them a wide berth.  If you don’t want your dog to get quilled, understand that your dog bit them first (porcupines don’t throw their quills), and a leash would go a long way to avoiding a problem with a dog that likes to stick their noses where they don’t belong. If you don’t want them nibbling on your trees (realize that they clear the crowns of over-crowded forests letting the sunlight in), you can always put flashing around the bottom of the tree to prevent them from climbing. Works with beavers too! And if you don’t want them nibbling on tires, plywood, axes handles, and outhouses; buy a salt lick and stop peeing on the outside of your outhouse. Females need the salt when they are pregnant.