The North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), ranges from Alaska into sections of northern Mexico, where it favors woodland habitats with high densities of evergreens. A wild porcupine can live 5 years, where it spends a majority of that time in the tops of evergreen trees in pursuit of its favorite foods. An herbivore, porcupines eat a wide variety of conifers as well as green plants, berries, seeds and nuts. Also know simply as the porcupine, it exists as a member of the “rodent” order of animals.
The porcupine is the second largest rodent in North America, losing by only a narrow margin to the beaver. Mature porcupines grow to a snout to tail length of 2 to 3 feet and weigh around 12 pounds, with some impressive specimens tipping the scale at a whopping 35-40 pounds. Porcupines come in various shades of brown, gray, and even white.
Porcupines are nocturnal and are usually found during the day lounging peacefully high up in the branches of a tree or caring for young deep underground in simple burrows.
Porcupines are perhaps most well known for their impressive coat of sharp quills that defend them from predators. Adult’s backs and tails are covered with almost 40,000 quills. When attacked, the porcupine defends itself by swinging its tail like a club and pounding quills into its hapless enemies. In the past it was believed that porcupines were capable of launching or throwing its quills, this is of course a fallacy. Each quill comes equipped with tiny barbs that slowly push the quill in even deeper, making removal necessary and extremely painful.
Despite its impressive defenses, porcupines still occasionally become meals for bobcats, coyotes and fishers who have learned to attach the porcupine’s unprotected nose and belly.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the range of the porcupine?
2. What is the average lifespan of a wild porcupine?
3. What is the average weight of an adult porcupine?
4. What impressive maximum weights have some adult porcupines reached?
5. How long do porcupines grow?
6. What do porcupines eat?
7. How many quills do adult porcupines have?
8. What predators eat porcupines?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The range of the porcupine stretches from Alaska and into sections of Northern Mexico.
2. The average porcupine lives 5 years in the wild.
3. The average weight of an adult porcupine is 12 pounds.
4. Some adult porcupines have grown to reach 40 pounds.
5. Porcupines grow to a snout to tail length of 2 to 3 feet.
6. An herbivore, porcupines eat a wide variety of conifers as well as green plants, berries, seeds and nuts.
7. Adult porcupines have almost 40,000 quills.
8. Despite its impressive defenses porcupines are still fed upon by bobcats, coyotes and fishers who have learned to attach the porcupine’s unprotected nose and belly.