North American Porcupine

North American Porcupine
North American Porcupine
Jeff Foott/DCI |

When threatened, a porcupine turns away from its attacker and erects the quills on its back; upright, they detach easily if they are touched (or bitten).

The porcupine may also back up and swing its tail for additional force.

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These solitary nocturnal creatures feed on leaves, berries, roots, seeds, twigs, and bark.

Adept climbers, they ascend trees for food, to escape predators, and to sleep.

The female's estrus lasts from eight to twelve hours and the normally sedentary male searches for her by her smell.

Their courtship is accompanied by loud screeches, and the male mounts her carefully from behind, a mating position adopted by most mammals.

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Animal Facts

Name: North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

Family: Erethizontidae (New World Porcupines)

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Range: Alaska, Canada, western United States, and northern Mexico

Habitat: Forest to desert

Diet: Evergreen needles, cambium, back, buds, twigs, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, berries, nuts, and other vegetation

Head and Body Length: 18 to 25 inches (46 to 63 cm)

Tail Length: 5.5 to 12 inches (14 to 30 cm)

Weight: 9 to 40 pounds (4 to 18 kg)

Life Cycle: Mating September to November; gestation 200 to 217 days, one (sometimes two) young born

Description: Dark brown coat; small head; sharp. barbed quills — yellowish at the base, dark at the tip; stiff guard hairs; wooly underfur; robust body; short legs; short, thick tail

Conservation Status: Common

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