Fast Facts: Porcupines

Basics: The American porcupine is a large rodent with sharp quills. Their fur is brownish-yellow to black. Their quills are usually white or yellow.

Stats: The average weight of an adult porcupine is 20-25 pounds. The average length of an adult porcupine is 2-3 feet long. The American Porcupine is the 2nd largest rodent in America (beavers are bigger.) Porcupines are heavy bodied, have short legs, and are very slow.

Range: Porcupines have a very widespread range. They are found throughout Alaska, most of Canada, the Great Lakes Region, most of the western United States, and the northeast regions of the United States. They are adapted to live in many different climates and elevations.

Quills Basics: Porcupines are covered in quills that are made of keratin (the same stuff that makes our hair and nails.) There are about 30,000 quills that cover a porcupine’s body!

Quills as Defense: Quills are used for defense. They are hollow and lightly attached, so that when a predator encounters them the quills easily detach. Quills have sharp tips and barbs that make it difficult to remove once stuck in another’s skin. They do grow new ones to replace the ones they lose. Porcupines cannot shoot the quills out of their body.

Climbing: Porcupines have excellent grip, allowing them to climb up trees. Their long claws help with climbing, and their tails help stabilize them.

Swimming: Porcupines are surprisingly good at swimming, as their hollow quills allow them to keep afloat.

Diet: A porcupine’s diet consists of a wide variety of plant material. In the winter they will eat evergreen needles and the inner bark of a tree. In the spring and the summer time, porcupines will change their diet to eating berries, grasses, and stems.

Life Cycle: Porcupines will breed in the fall and the winter. A porcupine’s courtship will involve a variety of vocalizations and a courtship dance. Porcupettes (baby porcupines) are born in spring or early summer.

Leave No Trace: It’s important to keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Dogs must be on a leash in Acadia

Last updated: August 19, 2021