Lisbon man performs C-section on roadkill porcupine, saves ‘Penelope’

When Jared Buzzell headed into the woods last week, he figured he might be able to find some valuable chaga mushrooms that he sells for their medicinal qualities.

He didn’t expect to end up becoming a midwife — for a road-killed porcupine, no less — and helping to deliver a fuzzy little baby that his kids fell instantly in love with.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Penelope the Porcupine checks out her new digs. (Photo courtesy of Jared Buzzell)

Penelope the Porcupine checks out her new digs. (Photo courtesy of Jared Buzzell)

“[We were looking] for the chaga mushroom,” the 29-year-old Lisbon man said. “It’s unbelievably good for you. It’s a healthy drink for you. I sell it on-line.”

Buzzell, a forager who specializes in finding medicinal plants, said that only three out of 10,000 white birch and yellow birch support chaga mushrooms. And he and buddy Scott Harmon were determined to find a few of those trees.

After their first location didn’t pan out, the duo headed to Minot, where they hoped for better luck.

That’s when the car in front of them had a bit of an accident.

“The porcupine came out and the car whacked it,” Buzzell said.

The odd thing: He and Harmon had recently been talking about “bezoar stones,” which are found in the bellies of some porcupines. And many folks say that porcupine bezoar has amazing medicinal qualities and can be useful against cancer and other maladies.

That’s when the buddies got to work. Warning: This part is pretty gruesome.

Penelope the Porcupine. (Photo courtesy of Jared Buzzell)

Penelope the Porcupine. (Photo courtesy of Jared Buzzell)

“We said, ‘We ought to check [the porcupine],” Buzzell said. “I started checking the stomach and I could feel a ball. So I opened it up.”

The ball was not a bezoar stone, however.

“It was a baby, not a stone,” Buzzell said. “We cut the umbilical cord and put [the porcupine] in a hat. We massaged it a little bit because we had read that a newborn baby, you smack it on the butt or you massage it.

“We rubbed its belly a little bit and it pushed a little foam out [of its mouth]. Then it started taking big, deep breaths of air,” he said.

Buzzell took the porcupine home, started feeding it, and the prickly critter was walking around the house a day later.

Buzzell said he really didn’t know what to feed a baby porcupine, but read on line that animal milk would be best. When he talked with animal rehabilitator Adam Farrington, Farrington suggested baby formula.

“She took right onto the bottle and she started feeding perfectly,” he said.

Buzzell’s children, who are 8, 5 and 1 1/2 years old, loved the porcupine from the start, and lobbied to keep the animal they named “Penelope the Porcupine.”

Buzzell knew that wasn’t an option, and after nearly a week, he took Penelope to Farrington.

“When she’s ready to back into the wild, I’m going to take my kids [to watch],” Buzzell said.

Buzzell said that he’s heard all sorts of criticism since the incident, including some from people who assume that a guy who would cut open a dead porcupine must have been foraging for hallucinogenic mushrooms.

“They call me crazy, weirdo and everything,” Buzzell said. “But if the stone’s there, if it helps people with cancer, if there is a bezoar stone and it’s real, why not help people?”


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.