Have you seen a porcupine lately? If you live in central Texas, the chances are you’ve noticed one in a tree or on the road. If you haven’t seen one yet, keep your eyes out, because they’re expanding into new territory.
In the past few years, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been contacted by numerous people reporting porcupines in central Texas. Porcupines are known to occur primarily in northern and western Texas, but not so much in the central portion of the state. The map below shows the generally accepted distribution of porcupines in Texas.
While receiving all these porcupine reports was interesting, they were also anecdotal and difficult to interpret. However, now a new tool called iNaturalist has enabled members of the public to record and share wildlife observations. iNaturalist uses photos, GPS locations, and community identifications to improve the reliability of the data and it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for biologists and researchers to learn about wildlife from the public.
Currently, iNaturalist has 73 porcupine reports for Texas since 2012. The map of these observations supports the reports we received from the public. While we shouldn’t confuse an abundance of observations with the abundance of porcupines (the number of observations is also influenced by the number of people making observations), these data clearly demonstrate a shift in our understanding of the distribution of porcupines in Texas.
It’s exciting to see how much we can learn in a few short years when people combine their efforts and share their knowledge. Check out the Mammals of Texas iNaturalist Project to start learning about other mammals in the state.
So keep your eyes peeled for porcupines! They are fascinating animals and if you live in Austin or San Antonio, they may be headed your way.