In what sounds like a twisted children's story, a Maine man searching for a "magical" substance known as bezoar on the side of the road found something a little spikier and more adorable: a baby porcupine.
Jared Buzzell was driving in Minot, Maine, when he saw a car hit a porcupine. His uncle had once told him that the critter's stomach produced a valuable mineral called bezoar, popular in traditional Chinese medicine. So, after Buzzell determined that the animal was dead, he did what any bezoar hunter would do. He attempted to procure the precious material.
“[I] cut the sack open and out fell the porcupine,” Buzzell told local news station KDVR. “Cut the umbilical cord, put it in a hat. We thought it was dead. Then I started massaging it, and all kinds of stuff started coming out of its lungs, so it started breathing.”
With half a gram of bezoar fetching as much as $200, you can’t blame Buzzell for looking. The medicinal use of bezoar, which develops in the digestive tract of certain animals from undigested grass, herbs, and inorganic materials, dates to 10th-century Arabia. Its purported healing effects on cancer, diabetes, dengue fever, and other ailments, however, are not supported by science.
Buzzell took the baby porcupine home to his apartment, where it's bottle-fed every two to three hours. Though his wife has expressed interest in keeping the newborn, the Maine Warden Service mandates that baby porcupines can’t be kept as pets. Once the animal gets stronger, the family plans to reluctantly hand it over to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.