North America Porcupine

Erethizon dorsatum

The North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is the second largest of all rodents. Quill Pig and Hedgehog are two other common names. The range is throughout all of North America desert regions, the entire west, north to Canada and the Northeast. The habitat is in woods or woodlands. The Northern American Porcupine is a heavy set, short-legged, slow moving rodent that is usually solitary, nocturnal, herbivorous, and spends much of its time in trees.

The porcupine has a small head, large chunky body with a high arching back and short legs. The average body length is thirty-three inches, and it has a tail that is about eight inches. The weight ranges from ten to forty pounds. Long wiry guard hairs grow mostly on the front half of the body and up to 30,000 shorter, heavier quills (hairs modified into sharp, mostly hollow spines) are interspersed among the guard hairs on the back and tail. If the porcupine is threatened, it puts its snout between his forelegs and spins around presenting its rear to the enemy. If the enemy attacks, the porcupine drives its tail against the aggressor and dozens of quills detach easily from the skin to remain embedded in the attacker.

Porcupines breed in the fall or early winter. They have a unique courtship ritual. The male, when hunting for a female, squeaks. A female lets the male know that she is available by squalling. When the two find each other, they confirm the arrangement with lots of nose rubbing. One or two young are born with soft quills in April &endash; June. They are born with soft quills and within an hour, the quills harden. In about ten days, they open their eyes, and in two weeks they begin eating solid food; although, they continue to nurse for four or five months. The life expectancy is five or six years.

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