Thanks to everyone who is helping work out how to handle observations like this. I’ve not only gained a better understanding of how to handle this one but how to handle other observations that aren’t as cut and dried as most.
Range and location: In my state, Minnesota (MN), the iNat observations for North American Porcupine are concentrated in the NE. This observation was in the SW quadrant of the state and about 125 miles from the nearest iNat observation in MN and about 125 miles to the nearest observation in Wisconsin (the state to the east of MN).
The state Department of Natural Resources says they are found in the upper (NE) two-thirds of MN. Their range map doesn’t cover the SW corner of the state but I can’t tell how far away from the boundary my observation is. Range maps on other sites are similar. The website for the National Wildlife Control Training says “In Minnesota porcupines can be found throughout the state excluding the southwestern region of the state.”
I know that things can be found outside their range but I’m always respectful of the concept of ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof’. I tried various online searches for any hint that porcupines have been found in this area (which is not a highly visited area by naturalists). All I could find was A) references to Native American quillwork done in the county and B) a soil survey of the county with a list of wildlife ‘attracted to’ the existing habitat that included porcupines. But the wording (to me) didn’t directly specify that they were found there so I didn’t take it as a confirmation of such.
A novice thought. Most of SW Minnesota is farmland, prairie, and grassland. But this area we were in is along the banks of the Minnesota River where I believe the habitat could (would) be very different from the surrounding landscape. So, if an isolated population of an organism were to exist in the SW portion, it would make sense it would be in the habitat quite unlike what surrounds it. It was a geologically interesting area to visit. But I don’t know enough about the required habitat of the porcupine and the full habitat of the Minnesota River Valley to form an opinion beyond idle contemplation.
Predated remains vs human-held pelt: I do not know if this is a pelt or predated piece of skin with the fur/quills attached. I interact very minimally with the things I’m observing and photographing and I wouldn’t normally handle dead mammal remains and I was at the very end of this walk with my husband waiting in the car! I think, by looking at the photo, that it could be a pelt. I don’t know that to be the case. I liked how @Star3 put it “by human means is your assumption…not without merit, but unproven”. Exactly. I don’t 100% know nor am I ‘pretty sure’. I just don’t have anything to disprove what could be the likeliest explanation.
So I was left with this way out of range observation and very little to explain it. With one possibility of it being a pelt, and no evidence found that porcupines have been found any closer than 125 to here, I wondered if it was the best practice to keep it as a RG observation.
@jon_sullivan : thanks for the tip on the observation field. I rarely utilize this field because I don’t think it’s highly intuitive. I’ve added that field.
@Star3 : thanks for the link to the Greg Lasley video. That was a fantastic interview and, wow, talking about out-of-range animals was specific to this topic.
I agree that there could be some merit to the observation and it should be kept.
I have already shared most of what I had researched/considered in the observation itself and I’ll add a link to this thread so people can read a little further on the concept of out-of-range observations. With that info in the observation, perhaps it doesn’t do (much?/any?) harm to RG as long as people investigate these vagrant types of observations. This was my biggest worry.
I don’t think I’ll mark it ‘not wild’ for the reason that I really can’t be highly confident in either wild or not wild. Of course, someone might happen by and mark it such and, as suggested by quite a few, we let the community work that out. I’m on board with that concept.
And I’ll keep the location as accurate as explained in the explanation of that DQA.
For the moment, I have what I sought and I thank you all for your help. I’ll mark this solved for my own needs (on this post which is a result of everyone’s contributions - each post offers guides for a solution and I couldn’t pick just one). But, if allowed, I’m fine with additional thoughts being put forth.