OGDENSBURG — Just over a year ago, a resident of Summit Wildlife Rehabilitation, about the size of a baseball, was found in the mouth of a Yorkshire terrier.
A 2-day-old porcupine baby had survived the ordeal with the curious dog. According to Shannon M. Demers, who runs Summit Wildlife Rehabilitation, 5852 Route 37, with her wife Katie Maloney, his spines were hardened just enough to protect and protect him while he sent the terrier to the vet.
Summit routinely takes in small mammals that have been injured or orphaned babies. Rabbits, squirrels, possums and turtles are frequently rehabilitated at Summit. Ms. Demers, who is a state Department of Environmental Conservation-licensed wildlife rehabilitator, said the purpose of Summit Wildlife Rehabilitation is to “educate, rehabilitate and release.”
The baby porcupine they originally thought was a female but is a male was named Penny.
“Penny was brought to us in April last year; it was found in a dog’s mouth. When I got it, it was about the size of a baseball. So he was really tiny, he was just born. So I hand raised him and he bonded with me which we don’t want and he is an absolute sweetheart. If I let him go, he would approach someone, possibly hurt someone or he would get hurt,” Ms. Demers said.
Penny behaves like a domesticated cat or dog. He likes having his stomach rubbed, and Ms. Demers often pets Penny like a dog, unafraid of getting stuck with spikes. She even puts chunks of vegetables in her mouth and Penny takes them from her.
Mrs. Demers also regularly picks up Penny and has taught the porcupine to give high-fives.
Penny will soon be making a long journey across the country to his new home at the San Diego Zoo, where he will be the new educational animal ambassador. Ms Demers had posted photos of Penny on a Facebook page dedicated to zoo keepers and she received more than 20 requests from zoos across the country wanting to get Penny.
“We were completely overwhelmed, we really had no idea what to do,” said Ms. Demers, who chose the San Diego Zoo as Penny’s new home.
He will rotate between three large enclosures and have a lot more space, she said.
“He will be seen. Penny will be an educational animal ambassador, one of them, which means they’ll take him on field trips with kids and such, and use him in presentations. As he is quite tame they will do a lot with him and they are thinking about starting a new breeding program with him. Porcupines are in high demand right now so hopefully they can find a mate for him,” she said. “He’s a special guy.”
Ms Demers said Penny is expected to start his journey to his new home on Thursday.
They will drive him to Greater Rochester International Airport, where Penny will be put on a Delta Air Lines plane for his trip to San Diego, where zoo officials will pick him up.
Next spring, the couple plans a trip to California to visit Penny. Zoo officials have assured them that they can receive photos and video chats with Penny whenever they want.