Creature Feature

Creature Feature – The Porcupine

Posted by  //  November 27, 2019  //  Articles, Creature Feature

There are over two dozen kinds of porcupines across the globe, but the North American porcupine is the only species living in the U.S.  It does not hibernate, and depending on the season, eats a variety of twigs, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, grasses and clover.  

The porcupine actually has soft hair, but its back, sides and tail are covered with more than 30,000 sharp quills which it relies on for protection.  These barbed spines expand beneath an attacker’s skin and are difficult to remove. While the porcupine cannot “throw” its quills, they detach easily if touched.  When harassed, it raises its quills, tucks down its vulnerable head and keeps its back end turned toward the threat. It then thrashes its spiked tail, hoping to connect with the assailant.  Predators, like bobcats, coyotes, bears and great horned owls, may kill a porcupine, but they risk injury and possibly death. The fisher is an expert at dispatching the porcupine, as it is low slung and agile enough to avoid the thrashing tail.   

The “prickle pig” must chew wood constantly to keep its large front teeth honed, and it also craves salt.  These hankerings may lead it to damage our personal property including prized trees, canoe paddles, leather harnesses, outbuildings, exposed plastic pipes and even road salt-splashed brake hoses on cars.

Ironically, the porcupine sometimes falls from trees and sustains self-stabbing injuries.

Article & photo by Margie Manthey

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