Colorado Rocky Mountain wildlife is a beautiful part of our mountain environment and a big reason why we love living here. However, wildlife encounters with dogs and cats can become dangerous very quickly. Here we outline some of the common wildlife our pets may encounter in our high alpine environment of Colorado and what to do if your pet encounters one these creatures.
Porcupines are mostly nocturnal herbivores that are technically considered rodents. They move slowly and grow to be about 35 pounds. Dogs are often very curious about porcupines and will attempt to get closer to smell or even attack them.
“Porcupines have soft hair, but on their back, sides, and tail it is usually mixed with sharp quills. These quills typically lie flat until a porcupine is threatened, then leap to attention as a persuasive deterrent. Porcupines cannot shoot quills at predators as once thought, but the quills do detach easily when touched. Many animals come away from a porcupine encounter with quills protruding from their own snouts or bodies. Quills have sharp tips and overlapping scales or barbs that make them difficult to remove once they are stuck in another animal’s skin. Porcupines grow new quills to replace the ones they lose.” – National Geographic.
The biggest risk for a dog that has been quilled is migration and embedding of the quills through the chest into the lungs. This can be life threatening if not addressed right away. Quills can also penetrate joints, eyes, and become infected deep in tissue
What to do if your pet encounters a porcupine:
- Seek immediate veterinary attention for your pet. If the event occurs after hours, seek emergency care.
- Do not attempt to remove the quills on your own. Quills are extremely painful to remove. Removal of quills in an awake animal will result in quill breakage, further embedding of the quills deeper into soft tissue, and may cause your dog to bite you out of pain.
- Do not cut the quill shafts. This makes them splinter and actually makes them more difficult to remove.
Avoidance of Porcupine Encounters:
Porcupines are most active in the summer months during dusk and dawn. That said, we do see porcupine encounters in the wintertime too! Keeping your dog on a leash is best way to avoid them. Porcupines are not aggressive and will not attack unprovoked. Dogs that get “quilled” generally do not learn their lesson, so avoidance is the best prevention!