Of the world's 23 species, only the N American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum
) occurs in Canada, throughout mainland FORESTS
Canada's second-largest RODENT
(up to 18 kg and 103 cm long, including a 30 cm tail) has a stout, black and yellowish white body bearing 30 000 sharp, slightly barbed quills (up to 8 cm long) on upper parts and tail. When cornered, a porcupine erects its quills and lashes its tail. Quills are easily dislodged from the porcupine's skin, but cannot be thrown. MAMMAL
predators (eg, FISHERS
) avoid the quills by attacking the almost quill-free head. Slow-moving porcupines are vulnerable to automobiles and fires.
Reproduction and Development
One young is born 7 months after fall mating. It soon walks and climbs, is weaned within 10 days, and leaves its mother by fall. Porcupines are usually nocturnal and do not hibernate.
Usually solitary, porcupines sometimes share good dens or feeding areas. They eat bark, buds, and the leaves and twigs of trees and other PLANTS
. Food, cut by 4 chisel-shaped incisors, is ground by 16 ridged cheek teeth. Some trees are damaged but extensive harm to forests is rare. Porcupines gnaw salty objects, tools and wooden buildings, and may damage corn or alfalfa.
The porcupine occurs in Canada, throughout mainland forests and thickets. It is Canada's second-largest rodent (Corel Professional Photos).
Usually solitary, porcupines sometimes share good dens (artwork by Jan Sovak, 1989).
DONALD A. SMITH
Links to Other Sites
See a natural history profile and description of the typical habitat of porcupines found in Canada. From the "Hinterland Who's Who" website.
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.