American Porcupine

Scientific Name: Erethizon dorsatum
Geographical Range:  North America, Alaska,  northern Mexico.
Habitat: coniferous, and mixed forests, open tundra, rangeland, and deserts.
Diet in the Wild:entirely vegetarian, evergreen needles, tree bark, buds, tender twigs, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, berries, nuts, and other vegetation. Porcupines are also known to gnaw on bones and antlers from the ground due to their high mineral content . 
Conservation Status: No special status
Location in the Zoo: Texas Wild

Physical Description:
 Coloration of common porcupines is usually dark brown. The dorsal region of the porcupine is covered with thick, sharp, barbed quills, which are distributed among stiff guard hairs and wooly underfur, however there is variation in the color of a porcupine's hair throughout its geographic range. Most porcupines weigh 3 to 7 kg. but a large male can weigh up to 18kg. Porcupines have heavy bodies with small heads, small ears, short legs, and a short thick tail. The animal's feet are heavy with naked soles.
Social Organization:
 Solitary,  but some may den together in the winter.
Special Adaptations:
The front feet have four toes while the hind feet have five toes. Each toe has a strong curved claw this is an adaptation to help the porcupine in his forage for food.
Because the porcupine cannot run fast nor appears very intimidating in size or appearance another special adaptation of the porcupine is its quills which are to help the porcupine defend itself from wouldbe predators. The number of quills on each porcupine may exceed 30,000. Each one of the modified hairs is tipped with microscopic barbs that cause the quill to be continually driven into the muscle of predators. The longest quills are located on the animal's rump; the shortest are found on the cheeks.

Reproductive Behavior: 

Females become mature at about 18 months.  A very interesting and detailed courtship takes place involving extreme vocalization, a very elaborate and somewhat comical  dance, and then after the dance the male showers the female with urine.  Females bear single precocial offspring, or rarely, twins, after a gestation period of 7 months.  

The Animal at the Zoo:

The porcupine at the zoo is a new addition to Texas Wild, however many people are not aware that he is a porcupine because he is not yet labeled.  He is kept in with the ringtails and they seem to be fine at ignoring eachother. They even bunk close together at times, the porcupine on the log and the ringtail under the log. I have seen very little movement from the porcupine because he is nocturnal so he is always asleep during the daylight hours, in fact I have never seen him in any other place but on top of the log. 

Image Courtesy Canadian Museum of Nature

  Page Author:
Jana Moss; email address-

Sources and Links:
University of Michigan - Animal Diversity Web
Sedwick county zoo
Canadian Museum of Nature
University of Michigan - Museum of Zoology
Mammalian Orders and Ohio Species

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Mammals at the Fort Worth Zoo