The porcupine is a medium-sized rodent, related to mice and rats and beaver. North American porcupines are the second largest rodents in North America (after the beaver). Porcupine young are exceptionally well developed at birth. Their eyes are open and they have teeth and even quills, which are soft at birth but harden within a few hours. Within a week, they can feed on their own. Porcupines are mostly nocturnal.
Year round diet of the bark and cambium layer of many different trees. Spring and summer diet consists of grasses, buds, twigs, roots, leaves, flowers, seeds and an assortment of other vegetation. Bones and antlers found on the ground are eagerly gnawed for their high mineral content. Winter diet consists primarily of conifer needles and the tree bark of conifers and hardwoods.Porcupines are generally solitary in nature, although groups up to a dozen may gather at certain nocturnal feeding sites during summer and early autumn. Numerous porcupines may share a den on a rotating basis, and several may share a winter den at the same time.
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The most famous characteristic of this animal are the quills.The porcupine has 30,000 or more quills, which cover all its body except the snout, throat, belly and feet pads.The quills are actually highly modified hairs that are stiff, thick and barbed at the tip. The hollow interior of the quill is filled with spongy tissue. Quills cover all parts of the porcupine’s body except the face, belly, inner thighs and underside of the tail.Quills come out of the porcupine’s skin easily, but they quickly become embedded in the enemy, working their way in deeper and deeper. It is painful and can be fatal.
Even with this prickly suit of armor, there are some animals that prey on porcupines;great horned owls, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, and wolves. Porcupines live in most of the western United States and parts of the Northeast, and throughout Canada.Photo Credits: