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Erethizon dorsatum

New World Porcupine Family (Erithizontidae)

Measurement: Size: 75-80 cm Weight: 6-10 kg

Description: This spiny animal needs little introduction. If you see a medium sized rodent with a body covered with hair-like spines, you've seen a porcupine. No animal looks similar. Its face shows a pair of bright black eyes and two large yellow-orange incisors.

Range: Porcupines are found across most of North America . They can be find across Canada wherever trees can be found. They also are common across the northern and western United States, and throughout the Canadian and American Rockies.

Diet: Porcupines feed upon leaves and bark of many trees. In summer, they feed along the ground, primarily on the leaves of small shrubs and eating herbaceous plants. During the long winters, they use their large incisors to gnaw away at the bark of trees, occasionally killing the tree as their gnawing encircles the tree, girdling it.

They can become a pest because of their incessant gnawing. They are fond of anything containing salt or glue. Plywood is chewed with abandon, and signs, even entire buildings, can be quickly damaged or even destroyed. For hikers, the salt in your sweat can provide a strong attraction. While hikers are very careful to hang their food, they may forget to hang their packs, and may leave their boots outside--both the boots and the pack straps covered with sweat. Come the next morning, the lack of either can be a rude awakening.

Porcupines spiny character is an effective deterrent to many predators. One exception is the fisher which seems particularly adept at catching porcupines. They will circle the porcupine, repeatedly biting it on the face until they immobilize it, and then quickly flip it onto its back to expose the spine free underbelly. Other predators such as coyotes, wolves, cougars and lynx may take a few, but will likely also pay a sharp price for the meal.

Reproduction: While normally solitary, they may congregate during the short mating season. Taking place during late summer and early-autumn, female porcupines may come into heat for as little as 12 hours. This narrow window for mating results in fierce competition between males. They often fight with each other and may drive hundreds of quills into each other (luckily they are quite good at removing them from themselves). To claim their territories and protect the females within them, they will urine mark their territories. Ok, how do they actually do it? The male forces the female low to the ground. He will rear up on his hind legs, and after soaking her with urine, he mounts her from the rear.

After mating, the female gives birth to a single offspring after 205-217 days. Within a few hours the young are able to leave the den. Within a week, long before they are weaned, they are already able to eat vegetation. They will not be weaned until the end of summer.

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005



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