Meet Cinder, the porcupine that became a symbol of hope to the Panhandle

The spiny rodent’s recovery after being found badly burned from wildfires that scorched the region has garnered her a global audience.

By Laura RiceApril 18, 2024 1:45 pm,

It’s been close to two months since the start of the devastating wildfires across the Panhandle. The record breaking fires killed two people, thousands of head of cattle and untold numbers of wildlife.

But one small story of resilience has captured worldwide attention. It’s about Cinder, a porcupine that survived the wildfire at Lake Meredith. When some forestry workers spotted her, she was weak, had trouble breathing, and she was terribly burned.

Cinder was taken to the Wild West Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and placed in an oxygen chamber. They discovered she was pregnant, but her almost full-term baby had died. In the following weeks, she’s been fighting for her own life and progressing in rehabilitation.

Stephanie Brady is the founder and executive director of the Wild West Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Amarillo. She joined the Standard to talk about the porcupine that has become a symbol of resilience in the Panhandle. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Well, first of all, how is Cinder doing right now?

Stephanie Brady: She’s doing well. She’s still healing. You know, burns are a long process, but she’s doing a lot better. One thing that has not changed since we’ve gotten her since day one is she has a fantastic appetite.

Oh, well, that probably helps with her healing process. What was the process of rescuing Cinder and the other animals, the other wildlife, from the wildfire?

Well, on the Cinder situation, we received a call from the Oregon Forestry Service that was out at Lake Meredith, and they were doing some cleanup after the Windy Deuce fire had gone through there, and they are the ones that actually spotted her just sitting there, kind of slumped over.

Honestly, it was a very pitiful sight. Like she was just defeated and nothing but burnt ground all the way around her for as far as your eyes could see. They immediately contacted us, and one of our transporters ran out there to get her.

She was having difficulty breathing, obviously, from all the smoke inhalation. Her feet were badly burned. Her eyes, her nose, her quills were halfway burnt down all the way. So we had to triage right away on oxygen and fluids to get her going. So that’s how we got her into our care.

And, you know, then phone calls would kind of trickle in after that of people finding animals that were injured. We got a lot of baby squirrels in. We also got in a barn owl that was covered in soot and it did wonderfully on oxygen and steroids and fluids and was able to be rereleased.

And, of course, there were some that we got that were just so badly burned that we were not able to rehabilitate them and the most humane thing to do, was to euthanize.

Courtesy of Stephanie Brady

Members of the Oregon Forestry Service found Cinder near Lake Meredith in the Panhandle.

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Oh, that’s just terrible. But the Cinder story in particular, it really captured a lot of hearts. Why do you think that is? There’s even a T-shirt fundraiser with her picture on it that’s raised more than $24,000.

Yes, and we were surprised by that. I mean, we’ve got a great following. We have a lot of wonderful support locally and through social media. But she really captured their hearts.

And I think it’s because the fires were so devastating. They damaged so many homes, so much land and cattle. And, it was just widespread.

I think she was a glimmer of hope for people, that they could kind of cling to and see something very positive coming out of it. And, you know, just seeing her resilience, her fight to want to live. And, you know, she is adorable on top of that. So that doesn’t hurt.

So after treatment, what’s the next step for the recovered animals?

Well, we always want to get them back out into the wild. With Cinder, that’s not going to be an option, though, with her pads being burnt. Pads on animals do not grow back.

The burnt pads, missing toes, and there’s some vision changes in her right eye… She’s not going to be a candidate for release, so she will likely just live out the rest of her life with us and if possible, become an education ambassador.

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