Meet Kale and Quilliam, the porcupines at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. (Video by Skyler Ballard)

If porcupines had a dating app (perhaps Quillove?), Quilliam would have immediately swiped right when Kale’s cute little snout full of whiskers popped up.

Kale, on the other hand, likely wouldn’t have registered for the app in the first place.

In November 2018, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo agreed to play matchmaker. On a breeding recommendation, the zoo acquired now 5-year-old Quilliam, a hot to trot gentleman looking for love, from Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey. Keepers hoped to stir up a love affair with Kale, their now 8-year-old lady porcupine, who was born at the zoo and was living and loving life as a single gal, with lots of treasured alone time to climb trees, snooze in precarious positions and eat her romaine lettuce and carrot chunks in peace.

Everybody was hoping some cute, little porcupettes would make an appearance at some point. So far, nothing. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still happen.

“Quilliam has no issues with Kale,” said animal keeper Sarah Dugger. “If it were up to him, they’d be married by now. But right now, they’re just friends.”

Dugger remembers the day Quilliam was released into Kale’s exhibit. He was so excited he turned into a little “porcupine tornado,” she said, running in circles, grabbing sticks and making all sorts of interesting noises. And when he spotted his potential schmoopy about 10 feet up in a tree, where she eyeballed him warily, he paused, took aim and peed on her. From the ground.

“It was not a great first impression,” Dugger said. “Not the best first date move.”

But that’s what boy porcupines do, apparently. They flirt with the ladies by peeing on them. One can understand Kale’s lack of enthusiasm.

“These guys have great range and aim,” Dugger said. “It’s really impressive and gross.”

Porcupines are the latest animal to be featured in a monthly series introducing the creatures at the award-winning zoo.

What is a porcupine anyway?

Maybe surprisingly, the adorable creatures are herbivorous large rodents. One glimpse of their giant two deeply orange-tinted front teeth will confirm this classification. And those teeth keep growing, so porcupines constantly need to gnaw on stuff, such as tree bark and rodent blocks, to keep those suckers pared down.

Can they really shoot their quills at predators?

Nope. Total myth. But a porcupine can poke its quills into a predator that’s making him nervous. He’ll fluff up all 30,000 to 40,000 quills and back up into the bad guy, sending all the microscopic barbs on those quills into the other critter. Don’t feel too bad for the predator. They should have known better. The contrasting black and white colors of a porcupine, much like a skunk, is a big yield sign in nature. It tells enemies that the cute little rodent is not easy prey.

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Nighttime is the right time

But not for getting busy, unfortunately, though keepers still hold the faith. They’ve installed a camera to keep tabs on the nocturnal porcupines, and have mostly seen Kale zipping around the exhibit. Porcupines are arboreals, so during the day you can often find Kale perched on a branch, snoozing and getting some alone time. On a rainy day, Quilliam loves to hunker down in their ground-level shelter.

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Read a book or go out clubbing?

While Kale loves to meet people, including zoo guests and kids during school programs, if she’s at home and she were a pretend human, she’d likely be in her room reading a book with the door shut. Quilliam, on the other hand, is a party animal. He’d socialize all day if given his druthers. Maybe his top favorite thing to do, besides hitting on Kale, is going for a walk through the zoo. He has free reign to shuffle along the sidewalks, smell stuff and meet guests. Keepers follow along and can call him back into his crate at any time.

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It’s not you, it’s Quilliam

There’s a particular odor that hovers in the air around the porcupine exhibit. Many a guest has self-consciously sniffed their armpits, because the scent is particularly body odor-like. But don’t worry, your deodorant is working. That scent is care of Quilliam. It’s the urine he uses to try and seduce Kale into getting frisky. He’s got a very limited window of time — lady porcupines are open to boy flirts about eight to 12 hours a day during the fall.

“That smell did not exist before he arrived,” Dugger said. “They’ll use their urine like cologne in a way and mark an area. It’s supposed to attract porcupines. He tries all year round, but she still hasn’t shown a ton of interest.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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