Prickly rodents are stealing the spotlight at Devils Tower National Monument as researchers and citizens look into the often forgotten lives of porcupines. There are about 12 porcupines who make their home at the Tower, and as you can imagine attaching a radio tracking device to one involves some effort.
The University of Wyoming wants citizen scientists to help with porcupine research at Devils Tower National Monument. Doug Keinath is a wildlife biologist who is leading the research. He and his team track porcupines to find their winter dens. Once they live trap an animal they tie a small radio transmitter to its quills. The team wears thick gloves to avoid getting poked.
“The reason I care is because I love biology and I love wildlife biology, and these porcupines are just really neat animals," says Keinath.
Keinath says porcupines live in ponderosa pine trees and eat inner bark layers. He says they also love to den in the warm rock crevices of Devils Tower.
"As soon as you start studying these guys more closely, you realize they’re really benign animals. I mean, I just find them fascinating. They’re just incredible, adorable little animals," says Keinath.
The monument is hosting an event on April 30 called the Porcupine BioBlitz, Visitors can use technology alongside university scientists to learn how to track the normally nocturnal rodents.
Nancy Stimson is with Devils Tower. She says this is the first event of its kind at the park.
“This is a way to develop some research and some good database on the porcupine, but also to develop an integral program with the public, with the citizen science protocol for the park staff that they can use in the future to continue the porcupine survey effort,” says Stimson.
This two-year study is the first focusing on the porcupine population and their winter habitat at Devils Tower. From this research, Stimson says the park plans to learn how to protect porcupine habitats in all seasons.