Porcupine

Scientific Name: Erethizon dorsatum

Description:

The porcupine is familiar to nearly everyone. Second in size only to the beaver among Colorado rodents, porcupines are 27 to 32 inches long (of which ten inches is tail). Weighing up to 33 pounds, these are large mammals.

Their long, yellowish guard hairs and dense coat of quills give them a waddling gait and make them look fatter than they really are. Starting at the forehead and growing thicker and longer toward the hump of the back, the quills of a porcupine can reach four inches long. A single animal has between 15,000 and 30,000 quills. Although a threatened porcupine will spin quickly, slapping with its tail, it cannot throw its quills as popular belief suggests. Yet each quill is needle-sharp and barbed with tiny hooks that will work into the flesh of any animal or human unlucky enough to come within striking distance.

Range:

Porcupines occur throughout Colorado in wooded and brushy habitats but probably are most common in woodlands of ponderosa or pinyon pine.

Habitat:

The animals may den in unimproved rock shelters but often spend the night propped on their muscular tails in the crotch of a tree.

Diet:

Several evenings of eating bark can severely damage a tree. The bulk of their summer diet is herbs.

Reproduction:

These are solitary animals, coming together only to breed in November or December. Females usually produce a single young (rarely twins) after a gestation period of about seven months. That is very long for a mammal of this size. The newborn porcupine is well developed with eyes wide open and a full coat of quills, which harden when exposed to air.

Credit:

By David M. Armstrong Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History University of Colorado-Boulder

$249
The La Sportiva Trango Tech Leather GTX Mountaineering Boot bridges the gap between backpacking and mountaineering for a...
Price subject to change | Available through Backcountry.com
Featured Park
Two deserts, two large ecosystems whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation, come together at Joshua Tree National Park. The Colorado Desert encompasses the eastern part of the park and features natural gardens of creosote bush...
Featured Wildlife
Maine ocean islands provide the only nesting sites for Atlantic puffins in the United States. Eastern Egg Rock in the midcoast region, Seal Island and Matinicus Rock at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, and Machias Seal Island and Petit Manan Island off the downeast coast provide habitat for more than 4,000 puffins each summer.