Keep an eye out for porcupines! According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, these prickly creatures are expanding to new areas.
Porcupines are already established in Central Texas but they’re expanding south and have previously been seen around San Antonio.
These animals are native to Texas and are the second-largest species of rodent in North America behind the beaver, TWPD urban biologist Jessica Alderson told KSAT.
Breeding season typically occurs in late summer and early fall with baby porcupines coming about 7 months later in April and May.
“Porcupines are really interesting creatures. If you happen to encounter one, simply observe from a distance,” said Alderson.
The quilled animals are expert tree climbers and are nocturnal. They live in a variety of habitats but prefer forested or rocky areas, with ridges and slopes.
“In the Edwards Plateau porcupines have been found most commonly along streams and rivers and in brushy habitats. In recent years, they have expanded their range into southern Texas,” Alderson said.
Don’t worry about porcupines shooting quills at you though - Alderson said that contrary to popular belief, these rodents cannot aim and fire their quills at unsuspecting predators.
Instead, porcupines lift their quills and swish their tail from side to side when they feel threatened.
“If these warnings are ignored and the threat continues, the porcupine will present its prickly backside to its predator,” said Alderson. “The porcupine will then chatter its teeth, thrash its tail and start moving in a backward position toward its predator.”
During this encounter, porcupines will shed quills which can sometimes get lodged in the face of a predator.
“Quills are hardened hollow hairs with barbed tips made of keratin which serve as protective body armor. Porcupine quills are shed and replaced just like hair,” said Alderson.
If you happen to spot a porcupine, simply back away slowly to give the animal an opportunity to leave the situation Alderson said.
She noted that the position of a porcupine’s quills are a good indicator of whether or not the porcupine feels threatened.
When the animal is relaxed and unafraid, the quills lie flat, hidden under a layer of long guard hairs. If the animal is disturbed or threatened, the quills stand erect and the porcupine is ready to defend itself, according to Alderson.
Keep your animals on a leash and if you see a porcupine - let us know in the comments.