Mammal

North American Porcupine

Area: 
Alaska, Canada, U.S. to northern Mexico
Habitat: 
Forests, woodlands, and sometimes deserts
Food: 
Inner bark of trees, twigs, buds, fruits, and nuts
Size: 
Body measures 2 to 3 feet; tail may be 8 to 10 inches long
Babies: 
Porcupettes are born covered with soft quills that harden within a few days.
Porcupines often make grunting sounds while they search for food.
Get the Point?

 

 

Porcupines are famous for their prickly covering. But let’s get right to the point: porcupines cannot shoot their quills!

 

Quills are just special hairs—they are made of the same thing as your hair and fingernails. Each quillA hollow, sharp spine, made of modified hair, found on the backs of animals such as porcupines, hedgehogs, and echidnas. The hollow shaft of a feather, or a type of feather. has a muscle at its base. When the porcupine is excited or scared, those muscles squeeze and make the quills stand up. Think of what it would be like if you could make your hair stand on end; you’d look taller, right? Raising its quills makes a porcupine look bigger. If a predatorAn animal that hunts and kills other animals for its food. still tries to come close, the porcupine can shake its quills to make a rattling sound as a warning.

 

Porcupines are rodents, like rats and squirrels. They look a little clumsy walking on the ground but can quickly climb trees. And porcupines are surprisingly good swimmers!