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A Porcupine Star Is Born

A YouTube video rockets a porcupine to fame.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: February 8, 2012, 4 a.m. EST

wild porcupine walking
© Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM
In the wild, porcupines eat trees, shrubs and other plant material.

It is uncommon for a veterinarian to have a patient become a celebrity, but that is exactly what happened recently. One of my clients has a porcupine that is used for educational purposes. Teddy Bear is his name, and he was found as an infant in a barn out in West Texas.  He became famous after a video of him “talking” while eating corn on the cob appeared on YouTube. Soon the video was all over the Internet and showing up on television shows. Of course, his popularity prompted more videos of Teddy “talking” while eating.

Teddy the talking porcupine recently correctly predicted the New York Giants to win the Super Bowl. The video of him picking the Giants was even on the Today Show. Much to my surprise, there are a lot of pet porcupines out there. 

North American porcupines are large rodents that are covered with quills. A male porcupine has roughly 30,000 to 35,000 quills that cover almost all of its body. The one area without quills is the underside of the porcupine. Originally it was thought that porcupines “shot” their quills like arrows; however, the quills detach only after direct contact. The quills have sharp tips and little barbs at the end, which can be dangerous to predators and pets that come in contact with porcupines. Their diet in the wild is mostly trees, shrubs, stems, leaves, buds, nuts, bark and sometimes even fruit. This all-plant diet makes them an herbivore. Porcupines spend most of their time in trees, so they are often called arboreal.

Porcupines breed during October and November and typically have only one or two babies. They can live for 5 to 6 years in the wild, but they can live to 10 or more years of age in captivity.  Porcupines have a good sense of smell, but they have poor eyesight. As far as medical problems, pet porcupines are prone to overgrowth of their big incisor teeth.

Enjoy the videos of Teddy the talking porcupine, but remember that most states and towns have laws preventing the keeping of wildlife as pets.

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>
See Dr. Murray author bio>>

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