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Pop Quiz:

  1. What animal looks like a prickly beaver?
  2. What animal is similar to a cactus, in that it uses thorn like spears for defence?

Porcupines, a usually peaceful neighbour in Wilden!

There seems to be curiosity, fear and misconception about our prickly wild neighbour. Let’s wander through some facts about this rodent.

The porcupine has long strands of brown to yellow-brown hair, where sharp barb tipped quills are embedded. The longest ones are on their back and behind. They even have short ones on their face. In fact the only places without quills are the stomach, nose, and bottoms of their feet. Incredibly about 30,000 quills cover their body! They stay close to trees and can climb very well, thanks to their long curved claws. Porcupines make their homes in dens and leave for the most part only to find food. Food consists mostly of leaves, twigs, water plants and the inner bark of trees. They love anything salty, even chewing on salt stained clothes that have been left outside.

Porcupines are peaceful animals, preferring to run away when feeling threatened. They will make a chattering noise as a warning, as well as tucking their head in, sticking out their quills, thumping their back feet, and swinging their tail from side to side in warning. It is a myth that porcupines can take aim and shoot their quills.

Getting too close is very risky.

If you encounter a porcupine keep you and your pet at a safe distance, as getting close is very risky. Porcupines typically defend themselves only when under threat; therefore, it is unlikely that a porcupine would attack a human.  They are hunted by a few animals such as the bobcat, wolf and especially the fisher.

 Interesting facts:

  • Their teeth never stop growing; they gnaw to wear them down
  • Erethizon dorsatum is their scientific name
  • Babies are born with eyes open and have soft quills, which harden within an hour
  • They rely on smell as they are relatively short sighted
  • Their quills fall out randomly, with new ones replacing them
  • They do not hibernate

I encourage you to learn more about this unusual animal.

-Article by Flora McLeod