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Animal Information

Porcupine Northlands


Erethizon dorsatum

Biome: Northlands

Classification: Mammals

Biography: Best known for its unique and effective method of defense, the porcupine is a slow-moving, nocturnal rodent. They have no need to be quick, like their smaller relatives, since their long, barbed quills keep almost all predators away. About 30,000 quills cover the animal's body, from the crown of its head to the tip of its tail. When threatened by an enemy, the porcupine turns its back, tucks its head, chatters its teeth, and raises its quills. A porcupine cannot "shoot" its quills, but a strong flick of the tail can drive them into an attacker. The quills detach easily and the barbed tips become embedded on contact. Using its large orange incisors, the porcupine gnaws on the inner bark of trees, evergreen needles, and twigs in the winter, and a wider variety of vegetation in the warmer months. Unlike most rodents, a porcupine gives birth to only one baby annually. The pup is well-developed and is born with its eyes open. Fully furred at birth, the newborn's quills are soft and hairlike, but become hard and functional as they quickly dry.

The North American porcupine is found in the forests of the western and northeastern United States, and throughout Canada and Alaska. Typical den sites include rock crevices, caves, hollow logs and trees. A pile of droppings at the entrance readily identifies an active porcupine den

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