Cute But Armed and Dangerous!

I’ve always wanted to see a porcupine in the wild.  As luck would have it, we saw 2 porcupines on the same night foraging along the road in Stone Mountain Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada.  This fascinating creature has one of the best adaptations of any animal.  Its barbed quills easily detach, piercing any predator who dares to touch it.  Contrary to common folklore, porcupines can not shoot its quills at an enemy.  However, the porcupine will abruptly swing it’s backside toward a pursuer in an attempt to lodge the barbed quills in the predator’s face.

I may be a cute porcupine but I'm armed!

Porcupines are found in coniferous and mixed forests throughout Canada, Alaska, and much of the northern and western U.S.  They are good climbers and will often scale a tree to avoid a predator.  Mainly nocturnal, porcupines rest in trees during hot summer days and come down in the cooler nighttime to eat twigs, roots, stems, berries and other vegetation.  In the winter, they do not hibernate, but sleep a lot and wake to eat conifer needles and tree bark.

Do these quills make me look fat?

With such dangerous quills, a few obvious questions come to mind.

1. How do they mate?  As the joke goes, very carefully.  They flatten their quills against their bodies so they don’t hurt each other.

2. How do they have babies?  Baby porcupines are born with soft, harmless quills.  However, their quills harden into weapons within hours of birth.

3. Do predators ever get past their defenses and if so, how? Natural predators like wolverines, coyotes, wolves, bears and cougars try to attack the porcupine’s head and flip over the porcupine to expose its vulnerable and unprotected belly.

Porcupines are very interesting animals, and I hope after reading this that you’ll get the point! Smile

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