Porcupine, North American
The porcupine averages 3.5 feet in length, including a 6-inch tail, and can weigh up to 40 pounds. The upper body is covered with sharp quills nestled among long, thick fur ranging down the tail. The underside is covered with long, dark fur. The feet have a naked sole with 4 toes on the front feet and 5 toes on the hind feet.
Class: Mammal (Mammalia)
Conservation Education Program AnimalMore Info
Range: Alaska, Canada, U.S.A. except southeast quarter, extreme north of Mexico
Habitat: Timbered and wooded areas
Lifespan: Up to 18 years
Wild Diet: Bark, evergreens, herbaceous plants, flowers, leaves
Zoo Diet: Apples, bananas, yams, monkey chow, vionate, cod liver oil
They are mainly nocturnal, and while foraging, continually sniff the air. They do not hibernate in the winter but will remain in the den during extreme cold or stormy weather. They are rarely known to attack but will defend themselves when attacked by climbing or fleeing. If cornered, they use the quilled tail for defense. Contrary to popular belief, they do not shoot these quills, but they back into the foe, causing the lightly-attached quills to detach themselves when entering the enemy's skin. They crave salt, and often gnaw at machinery, gloves, boots, saddles and bottles which have been touched by sweaty hands. Their predators are the wolverine, puma, and fisher-marten. Other carnivores will attack porcupines only as a last resort.
Mating occurs in the fall or early winter. The courtship consists of extensive vocalizing and a kind of dance. The young are born from April to June.
Gestation: 7 months
Litter: Usually 1
Conservation Status: Least Concern
- The number of quills on a porcupine can exceed 30,000. These quills are hollow, and also provide buoyancy when swimming, which the porcupine does extremely well. Although they have poor vision, their senses of hearing and smell are good. North American Indian tribes have extensively utilized the porcupine's quills for decorations on clothing, headdresses and moccasins.
- The Genus name, Erethizon, is from the Greek erethizo, "I rouse to anger, I irritate." The species name, dorsatum, is from the Latin dorsum, "the back" and atus, a suffix meaning "provided with." "Having a back that irritates."