Beware the porcupine! A case of misadventure in a young mountain lion.
The cub was euthanized after it was found not moving or responding to the approach of humans. On initial examination, there were numerous porcupine quills embedded in the muzzle, feet and legs.
The extent of the trauma caused by the porcupine quills became apparent once a full necropsy was carried out. The young male appears to have consumed the porcupine as the stomach contained quills, two of which had punctured the stomach wall. Quills were also found to have penetrated the chest wall and embedded in the surfaces of both lungs, causing hemorrhage. The internal injuries explained the poor condition of the young cub when it was found.
Porcupines are not unusual prey for mountain lions, nor is it unusual for mountain lions to fall prey to porcupines…or their quills. A skilled cougar might kill porcupines throughout its lifespan with no serious effects, likely consuming them from the belly and leaving the hide behind.
Inexperienced young cougars, however, may end up with injuries during the initial attack or consumption of the carcass. As porcupine quills can migrate through tissue once embedded, they may work their way into the body cavity and puncture internal organs. This can ultimately result in a mountain lion’s death long after the ill-fated meal.
This case appears to be another example of misadventure, an unfortunately common cause of death in the young of many wild species.