This honey badger got into a very prickly situation when it decided to take on a crested porcupine! Before I had time to set up my camera, the porcupine made a mad dash directly towards our vehicle. With the badger momentarily distracted by the 17 massive, foot long quills protruding from its head, neck and shoulders, the porcupine sprinted (they can run pretty fast!) around the corner and escaped. The badger tried to follow its scent, but it was too late and it retreated back into the bush.
Honey badgers are known to be one the most fierce mammals around. They can withstand stings from hundreds of bees and multiple bites from highly venomous snakes. While this photo isn’t great (ISO 32000 to freeze the action in low light), I thought it was important to share since there are very few documented reports of honey badgers hunting porcupines. In fact, many state that honey badger skin is impervious to porcupine quills!
While not impervious, most of the quills were not deeply embedded; a testament to just how tough and thick badger skin is. I suspect that the likely outcome will be most of these quills will fall out on their own or will be scratched or bitten out by the badger. Long term, it might develop an infection, but given how tough these animals are, I also wouldn’t be surprised if keeps on going as if nothing happened!
P.S. A bonus photo clearly showing all 17 quills. Also, crested porcupine quills are much larger than North or South American porcupine quills and do not have backward facing barbs, so they don’t continue to migrate into tissues.
All images copyright Owen Slater Photography