Dept. of Wild: Texas Porcupine Chase!

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In 2008, I received a photo of a porcupine road-killed at Sabine Pass.

That photo shocked many people because they (along with yours truly) did not realize we had porcupines in my native Southeast Texas. Back in 2012, I heard about someone whose Doberman pinscher had to visit a local vet to get porcupine quills removed from it after an Orange County encounter.

Do you have porcupines in your part of the state?

If you live anywhere from Austin westward you do and it seems there are scattered pockets all over the state.

A Texas Parks & Wildlife Department article written by the great Ilo Hiller gives some interesting incite into porcupines and their quills.

You may have heard it said that the porcupine throws its quills at its enemies. This is not true, but it is easy to understand why the idea persists. When a porcupine senses danger, it lifts its quills into the vertical position. The next step is to waggle its tail from side to side. If these warnings are ignored and the threat continues, the porcupine whirls around and presents its prickly backside to the enemy. With teeth chattering and tail thrashing, it advances in a backward position. During this violent tail lashing, some of the older quills that were about ready to be shed are dislodged. Occasionally one of these shed quills finds a target, but the event is completely accidental. No aiming or throwing occurs.

To understand how formidable a weapon the porcupine’s quill is, let’s take a close look at its structure. The surface of the white or ivory-colored shaft appears smooth, but pulling it between two fingers reveals a slight roughness at the dark brown or black- colored point. A microscopic view of this darkened tip, which usually covers about one-half inch of the quill, shows thousands of overlapping, diamond-shaped, backward-pointing scales arranged like shingles on a roof. Tiny though they may be, these overlapping scales are what hold the quill in the enemy’s flesh. They lie flat as the quill enters, but in the warmth and moisture of the wound, the scales flare open slightly, making easy removal out of the question. Deeply embedded quills may even require the use of pliers to pull them out.

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