Porcupine

porcupine in a tree

NPS photo/Cedar Breaks National Monument

North American Porcupine
Erethizon dorsatum

A unique rodent that you might not expect to find in Zion is the North American porcupine. Porcupines are more common in higher elevation forests, but they can also be found in lower elevation riparian zones and even deserts—all habitats found within Zion National Park. The porcupine is the second largest rodent in North America (behind the beaver), usually weighing between 10-20 pounds, although some may be larger. This slow-moving, short-legged creature is covered with long black hair and barbed quills. Despite common belief, porcupines do not actually "launch" their quills, rather their quills are loosely attached and can be released as a defense mechanism if attacked or harassed by a predator.

Porcupines are herbivores, and eat only plants. In the winter they eat mostly conifer needles and tree bark;trees with patches of bark removed, especially high up in a tree, are a good indicator of a local porcupine. These nocturnal animals are rarely sighted, spending much of the daytime up in trees. In Zion they find shelter in rocky crevices and hollow or downed trees.

Return to Rodents or to the main Mammals page

Last updated: October 2, 2015

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Mailing Address:

Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.
State Route 9

Springdale, UT 84767

Phone:

(435) 772-3256
Staffed daily from 8 am - 4 pm. Recorded information is available 24 hours a day. If you are unable to reach someone by phone, please email us at zion_park_information@nps.gov.

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