A porcupine walks along the shoreline in Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Brian Feulner / BDN

This story was originally published in July 2016.

Most folks get excited to spot wildlife while on an outdoor adventure, but not everyone would be thrilled to find themselves in close proximity to a porcupine. Despite what lore around porcupines will tell you, they cannot shoot their quills at you. They can, however, stick you with dozens of quills in an instant if you become too close.

If you get quilled by a porcupine then it is important to take immediate action. Those quills, while pretty to look at from a distance, are cleverly designed by nature to include a microscopic barb that burrows deep into flesh. Dog owners who have had the unpleasant task of de-quilling their pet can tell you that quills can travel through the body and puncture internal organs, causing a nightmare of problems.

To remove porcupine quills quickly and safely follow these three steps and seek immediate medical attention.

Step One

Cut ends of quills to release pressure from inside the quill, which will relax the microscopic barbs and prevent them from burrowing deeper into your skin.

Step Two

Grab the quills individually with pliers or hemostats or even your fingers then twist and pull straight up. The quill should slide out of your skin.

Step Three

Gently wash and disinfect the area and call a doctor. Some experts suggest taking an antihistamine to prevent an allergic reaction but check with your doctor before taking any medicine. Porcupine quills can be very painful and they can also introduce serious infection if not dealt with quickly and effectively.

Want to see exactly what it looks like to be stung by porcupine quills and then how to remove them? Watch this video of Brave Wilderness’s Coyote Peterson as he demonstrates being quilled by a live porcupine.

For more information on porcupines in Maine check out maine.gov.

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