News & Politics

There’s a New Prehensile-Tailed Porcupette in Town

A hearty welcome to a creature with a very boopable nose.

Photograph by Mimi Nowlin/Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute/Smithsonian's National Zoo.

An excellent small mammal arrived in DC on August 12 when a prehensile-tailed porcupette was born. The prickly critter, which will grow up to be a prehensile-tailed porcupine, does not yet have a name: its sex organs will not be visible until six months of age (and honestly, who wants to explore a porcupine to learn information like that?), so officials at Smithsonian’s National Zoo have sent a couple quills out for DNA analysis.

Check out the porcupette—mostly sleeping—at the zoo’s Small Mammal House.

This as-yet-ungendered porcupette is the third offspring of Quillbur (dad) and Beatrix (mum). Beatrix’s “increase in weight gain in April was the first cue to Small Mammal House keepers that she was pregnant,” the Zoo says in an Instagram post. A previous contest to name one of Quillbur and Beatrix’s progeny resulted in the name Quilliam. One commenter on that post suggested the zoo should name this porcupette “Stabitha” if it turns out to be a girl. That’s a very good suggestion, but we’ll just have to wait for the DNA results before we go crazy naming porcupettes.

In the meantime, let’s talk about this youngster’s knowable attributes! Prehensile-tailed porcupines are native to South America and can use their quill-free tails to grasp branches and hoist themselves around. They are born with soft quills (one of nature’s small mercies) that harden shortly after birth. But that sea-cow-like nose? It will remain very soft for its whole life!

So welcome, young porcupette, to the nation’s capital. We admire your boopable nose, your commitment to multi-modal transportation, and your right to take the time you need before you announce who you are.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.