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Photo © Matt Muir, some rights reserved
Kent County, Maryland (Google, OSM) Out of range!
39.1894, -76.15351


Dead porcupine: suspected roadkill? Scavenged on rear left leg.

Found during Kent County Christmas Bird Count.

Comments & Identifications

Common Porcupine - Photo (c) Danny Barron, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND)
muir's ID: Common Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

This porcupine was found far outside this species'published distribution. Closest resident population is NW New Jersey?

From Maryland Dept of Natural Resources: the porcupine "is rare in Maryland, usually found only in the western part of the state."

Posted by muir about 3 years ago (Flag)
Common Porcupine - Photo (c) Danny Barron, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND)
kueda's ID: Common Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Posted by kueda about 3 years ago (Flag)

Crazy. What would scavenge a porcupine?!

Posted by kueda about 3 years ago (Flag)

No se, but plenty of turkey & black vultures around. We were speculating that perhaps this animal had caught a ride on a Christmas tree truck from up north?? Just kidding (I think).

Posted by muir about 3 years ago (Flag)
Common Porcupine - Photo (c) Danny Barron, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND)
greenrosettas's ID: Common Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Posted by greenrosettas about 3 years ago (Flag)

Hello - I'm a biologist w/MD DNR's Natural Heritage Program. Matt was kind enough to forward the porcupine info to DNR which made its way to my inbox. Below is my response to Matt which includes some info regarding it's potential significance that may be of interest to y'all. I have since heard from Matt et al. about the xmas tree truck hypothesis - I like it! At this point, it's as plausible of an explanation as any. Thanks again to Nancy and Matt for documenting this record.

On Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 9:24 AM, Spencer, Tracey wrote:

Hi Matt – we occasionally get some really interesting observations of wildlife but this has to go down as one of the most remarkable! Assuming the animal got there on its own (more on that below), your observations represent a truly extraordinary, extralimital record for porcupine and, as far as I know, the first ever from the Delmarva Peninsula. While porcupine sightings in Maryland (as well as in PA, NJ and WV) are clearly on the rise in recent years, I’m not aware of any recent records east of Washington County. Even historically, with the exception of a single, vague pre-1881 report from Howard County, this is a species that has long been confined to the state’s four westernmost counties (Frederick County west).

So now I’m left scratching my head and wondering, as I’m sure you have been, how did it end up in Kent Co.? Is this northern/Appalachian species expanding its range to such an extent that it is now occurs on the coastal plain? Has a small population taken up residence south of the C&D canal? Or was this just a fluke, an isolated dead-end dispersal event? In Pennsylvania, porkies have recently been expanding their range southwestward and southeastward, beyond the mountainous regions of the state. In the southeastern part of PA, porcupines have been documented in Adams, York, Dauphin and even Lancaster County. I’m still looking into the southern extent of their distribution in New Jersey but there are no published or on-line records from the southernmost counties. So at this point, Lancaster County, PA may be the nearest known locality. That’s at least 60-70 miles away. That would be quite a hike for a species that moves at the speed of a small toddler and typically has a home range of < 100-200 acres. Not to mention the fact that it would’ve had to cross the C&D Canal. Still, I suppose it can’t be ruled out. Studies in Washington state documented monthly movements of 8-10 km in some individuals, and one young male dispersed 31 km in 66 days. I'm not aware of any research documenting such lengthy movements in the northeastern U.S. but I assume it's possible.

Another possible explanation that can't be ruled out is that someone transported the animal into the state. This seems unlikely but who knows. Whether the animal was already dead and discarded along the roadside, or released alive, only to be hit by a car or depredated will probably never be known.

Thank you Matt for forwarding this information and for recognizing its potential significance. I will be passing the information along to other staff who live or work on the upper Eastern Shore and ask them to keep an eye out and to forward any other reports. I will also continue looking into the species current distribution in southeastern PA and southern NJ, and query DE colleagues to see if there have been any reports from their state. In the mean time, if you have any insights regarding the origin of this animal or come across any other porkies (hopefully alive his time), please let me know. Thanks again, and Happy Holidays!

Jim McCann

James M. McCann, State Zoologist
MD Dept. Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Program
c/o University of Maryland-Appalachian Lab
301 Braddock Rd.
Frostburg, MD 21532
PH: 301-689-7105
FAX: 301-689-7200
EM: jmccann@dnr.state.md.us

Posted by jmccann about 3 years ago (Flag)
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Identification Summary

Common Porcupine - Photo (c) Danny Barron, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND)
muir's ID: Common Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Common Porcupine - Photo (c) Danny Barron, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND)
Community ID: Common Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
kueda greenrosettas 2 people agree

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Data Quality Assessment

Community-supported ID? Yes
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0 people disagree
Date? Yes
Georeferenced? Yes
Photos or sounds? Yes
Is the organism wild/naturalized? Unknown
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Does the location seem accurate? Unknown
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