North American Porcupine
Taxonomic Name: Erethizon dorsatum
Range: The North American Porcupine is found throughout North America, from Mexico north to Canada.
Habitat: These animals are typically found in hardwood, softwood, coniferous and deciduous forests. They are even found living in desert areas in Northern Mexico.
Physical Characteristics: The Adult length is typically between 31-40 inches with a tail length of 7-11 inches. The adult weight of this species is approximately between 7-15 pounds. There have been some male porcupines that have reached 40 pounds. They are covered in quills that they use as defense for predators. These quills can come loose from their bodies. Their color variations are mostly shades of brown.
Lifespan: 10+ in captivity and between 10-15 years in the wild.
Social Structure: Mainly solitary animals except for breeding season, when the male and female will tolerate each other for breeding.
Active Time: Largely nocturnal.
Diet: Wild - Year round diet of the bark and cambium layer of many different trees. Spring and summer diet consists of grasses, buds, twigs, roots, leaves, flowers, seeds and an assortment of other vegetation. Bones and antlers found on the ground are eagerly gnawed for their high mineral content. Winter diet consists primarily of conifer needles and the tree bark of conifers and hardwoods.
Behavior: Porcupines are generally solitary in nature, although groups up to a dozen may gather at certain nocturnal feeding sites during summer and early autumn. Numerous porcupines may share a den on a rotating basis, and several may share a winter den at the same time. During autumn breeding season, a number of males are found around adult females in estrus. During the summer, the nocturnal porcupine often spends the day resting safely in trees. Despite its stout body, short legs and waddling gait, the porcupine scales trees to great heights, climbing in an awkward and slow manner. The strong and barbed tail acts as a fifth leg for climbing, as well as a tripod-like prop for sitting upright. If alarmed, the porcupine will present its back with quills erected. Fishers, bobcats, cougars, coyotes, wolves and wolverines prey on porcupines. Great horned owls prey on young. The fisher is an especially successful predator. It launches frontal attacks on the unprotected snout, then a weakened or shocked porcupine can be flipped over, exposing its belly.
Reproduction: Female porcupines become sexually mature at about 18 months of age. The breeding season occurs between September to November and females may cycle more than once a year. Gestation varies from 205 to 215 days. One pup or "porcupette" is born in the spring (usually late-April to early-May,). However, pups can be born as late as August. Newborn pups weigh about 1 pound (.45 kg) and are approximately 10 inches (25 cm) long.
- They have antibiotics in their skin that help them from becoming infected from their own quills puncturing their skin if they fall from trees or during other activities.
- Porcupines have teeth that grow continuously their entire lives.
- The babies are born with erupted teeth, eyes fully open, and hair and quills that harden within a few hours.
- They can have more than 30,000 quills covering their bodies.
Relationship With Humans: They are a very successful species and are not considered endangered or threatened. However, they are considered nuisances because of their chewing, especially in the timber industry.