Sioux City porcupine. (DNR photo)

The Iowa DNR was recently called to a hotel parking lot in Sioux City to remove a porcupine.

DNR wildlife biologist Vince Evelsizer, says that’s a call that doesn’t happen often. “It’s pretty rare in today’s world to see them. We’ve had a couple of occasional porcupines over the past 10 or 15 years, you know, it’s probably one porcupine every three to five years shows up in Iowa,” Evelsizer says.

He says it’s another animal that once was common here. “They are native to our state. It was thought that they probably occupied a lot of the wooded areas prior to European settlement, especially northeast Iowa. And we’re one of the species that was nearly wiped out or pretty well wiped out unfortunately, during the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s,” he says.

Evelsizer says the porcupines were probably killed off because people thought they posed a danger, or they ate them. Iowa has seen moose and bear wander in from other states — and that’s probably what happened in this case. “It’s really likely with Sioux City being in far western Iowa, that this porcupine came from a neighboring state such as South Dakota or Minnesota,” Evelsizer says. “This particular one was blond and color, which is possibly indicating it spent a lot of time in the open country more.” Evelsizer says that’s an indication the porcupine maybe came from a more open prairie state like South Dakota and Nebraska. He says the native porcupines in the North Woods from Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Canada tend to be a little darker in color.

The porcupines are known for their sharp quills, but Evelsizer says there is some wrong information out there about them.
“It’s not true that they can shoot their quills at you know, targets or objects, you know, like animals or people that is not true,” he says. “However, if a dog or a person comes in contact with a porcupine directly touching it that they could get the quills. The biggest concern would be the barbs on the quills are curved, one way barbs so that once they’re lodged in a dog’s mouth or something like that, they are pretty hard to get out.” He says it can be a problem for hunting dogs in the western states or the northern states where there are native porcupine populations.

Evelsizer says the prickly animals usually roam around in the night, so spotting one is a treat.”You know it’s just kind of neat to see. Wildlife is always interesting and exciting in that sometimes we see something out of the ordinary,” Everlsizer says. He says in general porcupines are not a big safety threat to people, as they like to do their own thing.

Radio Iowa