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Shedd Shares Inside Look at a Porcupine's Animal Health Check-Up

Receiving a clean bill of health from the aquarium's veterinarian team, Tyson is ready for more field trips.

March 21, 2020

Tyson, Shedd's prehensile tailed porcupine, is covered in quills that can be as long as a finger and has a long prehensile tail for balancing.

First, Tyson the 5-year-old prehensile-tailed porcupine at Shedd Aquarium had a “field trip” to the penguin habitat. A few days later, his caretakers took him to see our veterinary staff for his regular health check-up. Animal care staff took extra precautions since the patient is covered in needle-sharp quills.

The exam took place at Shedd’s onsite animal hospital, in the A. Watson Armour III Center for Aquatic Animal Health and Welfare, which allows the aquarium to conduct regular, preventative care and examinations as well as step in and provide immediate medical attention if an animal should need it.

During Tyson’s routine physical exam, Shedd’s veterinary staff gave him a full workup from head to toe. Experts documented his length and weight, checked his eyes, collected and tested a blood sample, and performed dental cleaning and trimming. For safety and comfort, he was anesthetized or sedated throughout the examination.

“A regular check-up like this one is just part of the holistic preventative care we provide for the animals here at Shedd,” said Dr. Bill Van Bonn, Vice President for Animal Health at Shedd Aquarium. “Tyson’s exam wasn’t all that different than an average annual check-up that you or I would get from our healthcare professionals, and it helps us collect baseline data that continues to inform best health and welfare practices.”

With his clean bill of health following the exam, the porcupine returned to his habitat behind-the-scenes, where he participates in daily training sessions with animal care staff.

BACKGROUNDThe prehensile-tailed porcupine is covered in quills ranging in color from black and white to yellow. They are native to Central and South America and as a nocturnal animal are found sleeping during the day in the tree hallows or branches or scavenging at night. As herbivores, they eat fruit, leaves, vegetables and bark to help wear down their constantly growing teeth. These porcupines use their prehensile tails for grasping and hanging. Like all porcupines, they cannot throw their quills, which are only released when touched and embedded into a predator’s skin.

PHOTOS:High resolution photos are available for download:

Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez