Family seeks help with the prickly problem of a porcupine

porcupine - Jim Shuler DWR - StGeorgeNews.com
For illustration: This photo shows a North American porcupine in Utah. Date not specified. | Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Sunday morning brings many things: leisurely breakfasts, relaxing in pajamas or getting ready for church. Throw a porcupine into the mix and the morning suddenly gets a little prickly.

St. George Animal Control officer David Vane after capturing a porcupine and releasing it back into the wild out Turkey Farm Road. St. George, Utah, Sept. 4, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
St. George Animal Control officer David Vane after capturing a porcupine and releasing it back into the wild out Turkey Farm Road. St. George, Utah, Sept. 4, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

One family down by the Red Cliffs Mall found that out just before 10 a.m. as they discovered a porcupine in their backyard. A call was placed and St. George Animal Control officer David Vane was dispatched to the house.

“I used a catch pole,” Vane said, “put it on him, put him in a box and came up and released him.”

Despite the urban legends, Vane says porcupines do not shoot their quills.

“They just hit you with their tail. That tail, they can move that pretty good. They can whip that and you just don’t want to be in range of it.”

Quills detach from the porcupine easily, have sharp tips and barbs that can lodge into a predator's skin. These quills were found along a creek beside the campground area of Baker Dam Recreation Area, Utah, March 27, 2016 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News
Quills detach from the porcupine easily, have sharp tips and barbs that can lodge into a predator’s skin. These quills were found along a creek beside the campground area of Baker Dam Recreation Area, Utah, March 27, 2016 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

Porcupine quills typically lie flat until a porcupine is threatened, according to National Geographic, then leap to attention as a persuasive deterrent. Although they can’t shoot them, the quills do detach easily. They have sharp tips and overlapping scales or barbs that make them difficult to remove once they are stuck in another animal’s skin.

Vane released the porcupine out Turkey Farm Road.

“Probably halfway to Oak Grove,” Vane said laughing. “No, not that far. It was out there past the reserve; came off down into a ravine and just turned him loose.”

North American porcupine in Utah. Date not specified. | Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
North American porcupine in Utah. Date not specified. | Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

There are many species of porcupine, which is actually classified as a rodent, the North American porcupine being common to Utah. According to Wild Aware Utah, the porcupine feeds mostly on the ground during the summer, eating grasses, forbs and succulents, often along waterways. They can also be drawn to things that are salty.

“On occasion porcupines can be attracted to the wood handles of tools, wheelbarrows and gloves because of salty sweat absorbed in those items,” Wild Aware states. “If you have these attractants around your property porcupines may come looking for a snack.”

Besides the threat of quills, Wild Aware noted, a porcupine around your property today could attract its predators to your property tomorrow – coyotes, cougars and bobcats.

Collection, importing and possessing porcupines is controlled by the Utah Wildlife Board. If you come across an undeterred porcupine on your property, contact the nearest field office of the Division of Wildlife Resources, animal control or 911 for assistance in removing the animal.

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.

Resources

  • Division of Wildlife Resources: Washington County Field Office telephone 435-879-8694 | Southern Regional Office in Cedar City, telephone 435-865-6100.
  • Wild Aware Utah – webpage on porcupines | includes suggested deterrents.

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Email: rwayman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @NewsWayman

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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1 Comment

  • .... September 4, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    I see Bob was out and about in the neighborhood

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