EPISODE 425 MEET A PORCUPINE…BUT STAY YOUR DISTANCE, more than 30,000 quills



EPISODE 425     MEET A PORCUPINE…BUT STAY YOUR DISTANCE, 30,000 quills quills


alan skeoch
Sept. 2021




A car had stopped in the middle of the fifth line yesterday.  Unusual and a bit dangerous even if the road was gravel and
not that busy.   I was heading same direction on our ATV.   Then I noticed the reason.  Some creature was in the middle of
the road.  Maybe a groundhog of which there were not many anymore for some reason.  Not so.  It was a creature I had not seen
in the wilde for several years  A porcupine…maybe young one.
Little button eyes stared at us.  Apparently porcupines have weak eyesight but this one poses for my camera.  Look  beside
the eyes…..quills even close to eyes.  30,000 quills per porcupine.  The quills are really hairs that have evolved into needle life
detachable weapons.  Chemically dangerous tips…some toxic substance.   Since these animals are a bit clumsy they often
fall out ofd trees and inject the poison on their quills into their own body.  No problem.   They carry the antidote in their skin
because they fall so often.

They are not endangered in Canada even though their reproduction rate is limited.  One baby per female.  



Amazing how the porcupine becomes almost invisible in the long grass…after waddling about tenet he or she could no longer be seen.

The driver of the car had no idea where the porcupine wanted to go.  Nor did I.  We both knew enough
to stay away from the tail.  Best defence a porcupine has is that tail which is flipped in the face of an
agressor.  Looks like this one has already flicked a couple of hundred quills into some unsuspecting aggressor.

After circling a couple of times the porcupine waddled to the nearest ditch and disappeared.

In order to save huge veterinary  costs I notified the neighbours to keep their dogs on leash
for a couple of hours…dogs hit in the face by porcupines are not happy domestic animals.
I wonder if coyotes know enough to stay away from porcupines?
The North American porcupine has a long gestation period relative to other rodents, an average of 202 days.[37] By contrast, the North American beaver, which is comparable in size, has a gestation period of 128 days.[38] The eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) has a gestation period of just 44 days.[39] Porcupines give birth to a single young. At birth, they weigh about 450 g, which increases to nearly 1 kg after the first two weeks. They do not gain full adult weight until the end of the second summer about 4.5 kg. Their quills harden soon after birth.
Female porcupines provide all parental care. For the first two weeks the young rely on their mother for sustenance. After this they learn to climb trees and start to forage. They continue to nurse for up to four months, which coincides with the fall mating season. They stay close to their mothers. Mother porcupines do not defend their young, but have been known to care for them even after death. In one case, when a baby had fallen to its death from a tree, the mother came down and stayed by her offspring’s side for hours waiting vainly for it to revive.

Life expectancy[edit]

North American porcupines have a relatively long life expectancy, with some individuals reaching 30 years of age.[40] Common causes of mortality include predation, starvation, falling out of a tree, and being run over by motor vehicles.[41]

Porcupines and humans[edit]

Porcupines are considered by some to be pests because of the damage that they often inflict on trees and wooden and leather objects. Plywood is especially vulnerable because of the salts added during manufacture. They also often injure domestic dogs who inspect or attack them. 
Their quills are used by Native Americans to decorate articles such as baskets and clothing. Porcupines are edible and were an important source of food, especially in winter, to the native peoples of Canada’s boreal forests. They move slowly (having few threats in their natural environment) and are often hit by vehicles while crossing roads.
Porcupines are infamous among backpackers and backpacking publications[42][43] for their love of salt, especially eating road salt-covered boots left outside of tents overnight. They have a similar reputation among forestry workers of all types for trying to eat sweat-soaked gloves and wooden handles on tools.[44]

Conservation status[edit]

Globally, the North American porcupine is listed as a species of least concern.[45] It is common throughout its range except in some U.S. states in the southeast part of its range. For example, it is listed as a species in need of conservation in Maryland.[46][47] As of 1999, 15 remnant populations remain scattered throughout north-central Mexico. These live in riparian forests, mesquite scrubland, grasslands, and thorn forests. They are threatened by hunting and habitat loss. As of 1994, the animal was listed as an endangered species in Mexico.[48]


Species: North American Porcupine

Scientific Name: Erethizon dorsatum

Status: common

Description: The north american porcupine is famous for its quills and Canada’s second largest rodent (after the beaver).  These mammals have more than 30,000 quills, which are actually modified hairs. Quills are hollow, with a pointed at the tip and have some tiny barbs that help it embed into their predators skin. Quills are darker at the base  and become lighter, to a white hue, at the tip. Contrary to what most believe, porcupines are not able to “throw” their quills.  Instead, when attacked, they will lower their head (as most quills here are more hair like and not used for defense), and swing their tail at their attacker.  The quills will swell an expand once in the skin of the attacker which makes them even harder to extract. As with most mammalian species, the male is larger than the females. These rodents have small eyes, sharp claws on their front paws and short legs.

Habitat: Porcupines are found in a wide range of habitats including coniferous, mixed and deciduous forests. Porcupines do not hibernate during the winter, but will remain close to their dens, feeding during dry weather throughout both day and night. In the summer, they become more nocturnal, and will feed further from the den.

Breeding: Many people question how these prickly mammals are able to reproduce. Porcupines reach sexual maturity around 1.5 years of age. Mating season in Ontario is in late fall, where males will follow females around and serenade them with grunts and hums. Females are in heat, or sexually receptive, for a maximum of 12 hours and will be the ones to initiate courtship. Once ready to mate, the female will relax her quills, and moves her tail to the side to allow for the male to mount her. Females are pregnant for 30 weeks and babies, usually a single porcupette, are born between March and May.  Baby porcupines are born with soft quills, which harden a few hours after birth. These babies will nurse up to four months, but are able to start eating green vegetation within a few weeks of birth.

Diet: Porcupines are herbivores. They will eat buds, twigs and bark.  During spring and summer they enjoy catkins and elder leaves, poplar and willow. They will also eat currents, roses, dandelion, clovers and grasses. During the colder months, porcupines survive on the inner bark of trees. They prefer beech, white pine, and hemlock.

Threats to species: These large mammals do not move quickly.  Although their quills are a great defense against animal predators, their slow locomotion makes them vulnerable to strikes by vehicles. Additionally, some predators have learnt where to bite a porcupine without suffering any pain from the quills by biting their head or neck. Common predators of porcupines include lynx, coyote, red fox, bear and great horned owls.


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