The "mystery beast" captured on trail cam appears to be a porcupine, according to veteran trapper Bob Noonan, who did his own drawing over the image to show what he sees. Credit: Courtesy of Norman Tremblay and Bob Noonan

After a minor disagreement among state wildlife biologists and a number of creative responses from readers, we’re ready to (almost) authoritatively identify the Lowell mystery beast, which we introduced you to earlier this week.

It’s a porcupine. Period. Of course, you’re welcome to your own opinion, and over the past few days, you’ve shared plenty of opinions with us.

Many readers thought the critter was a beaver, while others said it was a wolverine or a fisher. Receiving a single vote each: capybara and kinkajou (which, to the best of my knowledge, are not known to be roaming the woods of Penobscot County.) A far number of readers also guessed “porcupine.”

A “mystery beast” walks in front of a trail camera in a small Penobscot County town. What do you see? Fisher? Baby porcupine? Something else? Credit: Courtesy of Norman Tremblay

But even among the experts I polled, there was not immediate agreement.

Here’s a rehash of the entertaining email debate between Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists Shevenell Webb, Keel Kemper and Bob Cordes, and the deciding vote from longtime trapper Bob Noonan.

Kemper: These are always fun. If we focus only on the head and [are not] distracted by the contorted body or the long appendage hanging off the hind quarter. If … we look at the small rounded ears, the distance from the ears to the eye, the round shape of the head and the blunt nose, then I am going with a beaver. Small one. One could speculate that the long odd appendage is consistent with a big flat beaver tail that looks distorted, likely by the game camera. A porcupine nose is more of a snout and a longer nose makes the face look less rounded.

Webb: I have to agree with you, John. The feet also give it away as a porcupine. The rear feet of a beaver are webbed and the front feet are much shorter. But the escaped gargoyle does make a better story.

(Editor’s note: I originally guessed “porcupine,” but also suggested that the mystery beast had escaped from atop Stephen King’s wrought iron fence in Bangor, and was actually a gargoyle).

Kemper: Where are the quills? Enlarged [the photo] and I see nothing that resembles a quill, especially no white base of the quills. Focus only on the head, the only part not moving and thus distorted by the camera. [I am] not swayed yet to porcupine

Webb: He doesn’t have a lot of quills, but I can make out short white quills on his tail. Night photos are hard to see details.

Kemper: I seem to be outnumbered. Bob Cordes’s respone: “Soaking wet porcupine.” You better go with that.

Kemper: Well I went to the authority, Bob Noonan. I think we can now rest assured it is a porcupine.

Noonan: Porcupine, without doubt. They often walk like this, lifting hind feet up high individually, a real waddling walk. Also that’s a classic porky tail and face — blunt nose, ear low on head behind eye. Not many quills visible but I’ve seen plenty with few quills all that visible, just thick black fur. Fewer quills than some, although they had plenty and could flare them up with the best when alarmed. Also this guy [is] probably not lit well by camera flash, which would help hide quills. Night-time trail cam photos often distort pics a bit.

And to top off his argument, Noonan included a doctored-up version of Norman Tremblay’s trail camera photo, which now looks exactly like a porcupine.

Or something like that.

For the record, I guess there’s still some doubt. But I’m nearly certain that the mystery beast is not a kinkajou. Nor a capybara.

Learn how to improve your trail cam game at the BDN’s Trail Cam Magic, a virtual seminar we’re staging on Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. Click here to reserve your spot for FREE.

Do you have a trail camera photo or video to share? Send it to and tell us “I consent to the BDN using my photo.” In order to prevent neighbors from stopping by to try to tag particularly large bucks, moose or bears, some identities and towns of origin may be omitted.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...