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Origin of porcupine sighting?

Staff writer

A “mellow” porcupine spotted in a cedar tree Sept. 5 southeast of Aulne may well be the same prickly creature Peabody veterinarian Virginia Skinner transported to her office and gave sanctuary over Labor Day weekend.

Skinner was drawn into the story when Dr. Paul Friesen, a friend and colleague of hers, called to consult about the appropriate dosage of telazol — a drug vets use to anesthetize animals.

“The porcupine was in an apple tree behind the Newton Walmart,” she said. “We wanted to get it out of the tree without killing it.”

Skinner and Friesen had no luck when they tried to contact Newton Animal Control, the Sedgwick County Zoo, and the Department of Wildlife and Parks because of the holiday weekend, so Skinner volunteered to help detain the creature and board it until they figured out what to do.

When she met Friesen at the apple tree, the porcupine was about five feet up in the branches, ponderously munching fruit.

They used a pole syringe to inject it with telazol from a somewhat safe distance, then waited for it to fall asleep and tumble out of the tree into a box they caught it with.

Skinner transported the slumbering beast to Peabody Veterinary Clinic, where she said, it drove a dog crazy she was boarding. Before the porcupine emerged from the tranquilized state, she was able to examine it without fear of catching a quill.

“I don’t have proof for sure, but I think it might have been a female,” Skinner said. “It had a soft abdomen and soft paws but its claws were sharp. Its fur was soft, too.”

Being a bigger rodent, it weighed about 15 pounds. She described its teeth as orange and “beaver-like.”

Skinner returned it to a cage before it woke up and left it with bark, branches, and apples she had collected from the tree they took it from as well some water and wild flowers.

“I’m not sure how much it was eating, wild animals don’t typically eat much while in captivity,” she said. “But it pooped a lot while it was here.”

Before she interacted with it after it awoke, she made sure to check with another colleague who is a wildlife vet at Kansas State University about porcupine quills.

Her friend was surprised there was a porcupine in Kansas, but assured Skinner that a common belief that porcupines can shoot their quills was a misconception, but that wouldn’t stop the fishhook tipped quills from hurting Skinner if she managed to get to close.

“It would turn its tail to me and slap the bars of the cage when I approached,” Skinner said. “I think it was scared. The dog was barking a lot.”

The porcupine left several quills in a towel she used for defense. They were about two-inches long and longer.

On Sept. 2, she put the porcupine in a lidded box and visited fourth and fifth grade classes at the playground of Peabody Elementary School.

At that time, the porcupine had regained a “mellow” composure, but when Skinner nudged it a little bit she said it made an “irritated noise.”

Later that afternoon, she released it at the corner of Pawnee and 80th Rds. near a wooded area with a creek and pond.

“I was willing to take it further west, closer to Colorado, but when the Department of Wildlife got back to me, they said I could turn it loose in the area,” Skinner said.”

If the creature is the same “mellow” porcupine Rod and Evan Just and Bill Shirley spotted southeast of Aulne, it waddled about six miles northeast in the space of about three days.

However, if the porcupine the Justs and Shirley spotted was not the same bristly one Skinner boarded, there is a possibility that the “mellow” porcupine could be a male and Marion County’s porcupine population might soon increase through the circle of life.

Last modified Sept. 18, 2014

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