NatureMapping Animal Facts for Kids


Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

distribution map

What they look like: The porcupine is a medium-sized rodent, that is related to mice, rats and beavers.  An adult porcupine is about 50 cm long (20 inches), not counting the tail. They can weigh from 4.5 to 13 kg (10 to 28 pounds).  Long black and brown guard hairs and quills cover its body.  The sharp stiff quills are actually modified hairs. 

Where they live:

Porcupines live thoughout most of the western United States and parts of the Northeast. They are also found throughout forests in Canada.

Found from sea level to treeline, in the forested areas of every county except San Juan and Island. In the unforested areas, they are found along riparian corridors with trees or large shrub growth, including lush sagebrush. It needs trees or shrubs large enough to provide bark and cambrium for winter feeding.

What they eat: Porcupines like munching on a variety of trees including fir, hemlock, and pine, as well as maple, beech, birch, oak, elm, cherry and willow.  They also eat several kinds of woody shrubs. 

Nesting: When not in trees, porcupines prefer the protection of a den.  The dens can be found in rock crevices, caves, hollow logs, or under houses and barns.

Behavior: Porcupines are nocturnal, which means they are active primarily at night.  Porcupines like to sit quietly in trees, so if you spot one, you're should be able to get a good look at the animal. When porcupines are on the ground, they shuffle and waddle along. The long sharp quills provide protection from predators.

The fisher is the most formidable predator of the porcupine. Great horned owls, coyotes, bobcats, cougars, and wolves also prey on porcupines.

Did you know?

  • The porcupine has thousands of quills on its back to provide protection from predators. 
  • Porcupines can NOT throw their quills.
  • Porcupines are nocturnal, which means they are active primarily at night. 
  • Porcupine vision is poor, but they have an excellent sense of smell.
  • Baby porcupines are called "porcupettes".

Porcupine Photo

Photos: Natures Pics

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