Out of place porcupines

Tuesday 7th September 2021

A handful of porcupine quillsOut of place Porcupines in Suffolk:


I am indebted to Bob Skinner for sending me this report. Apparently, Alice Lilly Finn was driving between Clare and Bury St Edmund at 9.00pm on the first of September, when they saw a trio of Porcupines trotting down the road in front of them. 

Whilst there are not known to be any Porcupines living wild in England at the moment, they have been here in the past, the most famous of these occurrences taking place in Dolton area North Devon after a pair of Himalayan Porcupines (Hystrix brachyura) escaped from a wildlife park near Okehampton in 1969. They bred successfully and were wild in North Devon until finally wiped out by DEFRA sometime during the 1980’s. These animals have a wide natural range and as the common name suggests, are found in the Himalayan regions and also as far north as Manchuria, and there is no real reason why they should not become established in the United Kingdom. 

However, there is another species of porcupine that has been found wild in Britain on occasion, in the first edition of his Naturalised Animals of Britain and Ireland (1977), Sir Christopher Lever notes a sighting of the magnificent crested Porcupine (H.cristata) in the middle of Salsbury plain one night in the 1970’s. Naturally, although this species is mostly found in sub saharan Africa and bits of North Africa, it is also found in most of Italy, and it is not beyond the wit of man to imagine that these magnificent creatures could – if the stars were right – appear on the list of naturalised British animals. However, the photograph which accompanies the newspaper story, whilst undoubtedly of an Old World Porcupine, something which is corroborated by the handful of quills which the people involved retrieved from the site, the image is not distinct enough to be of any use for identifying the animal as to species. It may be possible to identify the species of Porcupine from the quills, but it is not a subject which I know enough about to comment on. 

Thank you very much Bob for this story, I would urge everybody who reads this and who is living in the East Anglia region to keep their eyes peeled.

In the meantime, we have no more British porcupine stories but check out these British mystery cat reports HERE

Jonathan Downes
Cryptozoologist, naturalist, musician, singer, composer, poet, novelist and Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology since 1992. Jon was born in Portsmouth in 1959 and spent his infancy in Nigeria and his childhood in Hong Kong. His wife Corinna died of cancer in 2020, leaving him with two stepdaughters and a six year old granddaughter called Evelyn.